Mrs. Miller was thoughtful for a moment before she explained, “You see Korno, Anna has grown very fond of you and, much as I would like that she gets your company, there could be moments when a little bit of privacy is needed. If you are not too uncomfortable at the thought, we could go to your place.”
“I understand Mrs. Miller. But I would just like to add that my apartment is rather small. Fittingly, I have named it ‘The Hole’, making no pretension about its size or its occupant,” I said honestly.
“The smallest place, very often, turns out to be the warmest,” she said graciously,” I would be overjoyed to spend a few moments at the place.”
“But we couldn’t possibly go together,” I said in mirth, certain that she would fail to catch on.
Mrs. Miller was taken aback. “Why? Is there any problem in my being seen together with you when we go there?”
“No, not at all. It just struck me that both of us have our cars parked outside and, unless we decide to leave a car behind, we will have to drive separately to reach my place,” I explained, much to her relief. In the end, we drove off separately, her car following mine.
When we parked our cars and rushed into the elevator and to more people inside it, there was a little girl, not more than three years, holding her mother’s hand and looking up at our grim elderly faces that were straight and expressionless. I found a striking similarity between Anna and this little girl which made me keep looking at her.
“Why are you staring at me?” the girl asked in a serious voice when she found that my eyes were on her.
“Because I like to stare,” I said as I continued to look at her, this time raising my eyelids to the extent possible and with really ‘big eyes’.
“You mustn’t. I am not supposed to look at strangers,” she hadn’t ended the argument.
Embarrassed, her mother quickly pulled on her daughter’s hand and she was hushed into silence. I looked away amused.
“You get on with kids nicely, don’t you,” Mrs. Miller asked as we walked out of the elevator.
“I find them adorable,” I said as we came and stood in front of the door to our apartment. The nameplate on the door caught the attention of Mrs. Miller and she stared at it for a while.
“The Hole,” she murmured silently to herself.
“Yes, ‘The Hole’, just like I mentioned when we were having coffee sometime back. You now have the opportunity of checking for yourself and finding out if the name is appropriate,” I said as I turned the key and pushed inside, “Although this occupant, rarely, takes cheese like other inmates who occupy holes.”
As I switched on the lights and my modest apartment lay bare before Mrs. Miller, I wondered what her impressions would be now. Here was a place that accommodated a bachelor and that too one who was undoubtedly disorganized, mostly untidy and obviously forgetful. Scattered across the room and occupying the top of most of the furniture and their available space were books and magazines. Many were lying on the floor, stacked one on top of the other, mostly near the corners of the room. I made a feeble and almost ridiculous attempt to arrange some of them to give a semblance of orderliness before my eyes fell, at the other end of the room, on the chair accompanying the small dining table. My last worn trouser, ignored by its owner and wearer after its use, was dangling across the backrest of the chair with half of it on the floor. As I rushed to pick it up and hide it from the eyes of the beautiful lady I saw, to my horror, that the condition of dining table was pathetic to say the least. The used dishes and cutlery, with dried leftovers, were lying on the table just as I had left them in the morning when I had rushed out to keep an appointment. I wondered if Mrs. Miller would be prepared to remain long enough inside my apartment to discuss whatever she had decided earlier.
“Not exactly my best presentation, possibly my worst. If you believe me, I am not usually …uh … that bad. Would you care for a cup of coffee?” I asked. I thought I was being too optimistic in hoping she would agree.
“I didn’t set a condition for coming to your place so you needn’t feel embarrassed. And I haven’t really given you an opportunity to be prepared for a guest,” she said forgivingly.
“Thank you Mrs. Miller. You have made things easier for me,” I said. The more I saw and knew this lady the more reasons I had to admire her. She had, by now, sat down on the couch as I stood in the kitchen arranging the coffee mugs. Mrs. Miller had picked up a book from the numerous that lay around and was already flipping over its pages.