The narrow door

Every twenty minutes she stands there holding her handbag. Every day the same ritual. She goes out of the house through the green door, she stands upright in front of the doorbell and takes a cigarette out of her handbag. Then she smokes, stock-still. She makes no movement except to lift the cigarette to her lips. Her clothes are neat and carefully ironed. Mostly grey, red or pink. After smoking she steps to the kerb, drops the cigarette into the gutter and crushes it with her foot. No unnecessary movement. Slowly and precisely. Her face is impassive. Finally she goes back into the house.

Every day I see her through my window from my desk. Every time I see her motionless form, I move my chair so that I don’t have to look at her. But on days when she doesn’t appear I start to worry and almost unconsciously begin to look for her, until I’m relieved to see her standing there.

She lives in the old people’s home on the other side of the street, behind the vine-covered walls. The blinds go up every morning at 8.30 and the windows are hung with curtains. In the summer there is seldom a window open through which you could see someone lying in bed. Occasionally I hear moans and cries. But mostly I only see the facade.

Sometimes, when no-one is passing by, a black car pulls up. Two men climb out, go through the green door and return bearing a coffin which they load into the car before slowly driving off. It takes only two quiet minutes. Nobody notices. Nobody is disturbed.

Karine Azoubib