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An older neighbor and I happened to be leaving my old apartment building at the same time, so we rode the elevator down together.

Her arm was still in a sling — she had took a spill recently and broke her collarbone — so I asked how she was doing. I would have probably done the same if her arm were unslung; I’m neighborly that way. Plus, she was always nice to my daughter, randomly leaving her books.

“Eight weeks, I have to do therapy,” she grumbled.

“Yeah, physical therapy, that’s good,” I offered.

“It’s the only way it’ll get better,” she replied to herself in that old soul way of speaking.

The conversation turned to complaints about the building, as it was oft to do with neighbors. Then, in speaking about the prospect of my wife and I finding ourselves a home, she said:

She hadn’t meant it in a “…and stupid” way. I will admit to having been, though long gone are my stupid days. Her tone was more that of “…and you still have time.”

The two words perked me up at first. People often think I’m younger than I am; that’s immaturity for you. But upon parting, the alliterative words made me a little sad.

I mentioned she is an older woman, but she is hardly old in my eyes. Spills aside, I would not think she was knocking on death’s door or anything.

Funny thing time, it’s relative. We never know when we’ll go. I may very well go before she does. And while she may consider me young, I see my daughter and my graying hair and certainly don’t feel that way.

Despite my body checking my ego every so often, I generally feel young. Perhaps being young is not about years, but a mindset.

Our building may be falling apart but it keeps us safe from the elements, provides us with a place to rest and I am grateful for that. I could complain about it every time I see a neighbor, but that’s not in me.

I guess she’s right. I am young.

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With thanks to Gary Rogers. This short story was originally published in small.

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More by Ernio:

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Writer-Artist ✍ Contact: →in New Yorker: Find @ernio_art →on Instagram: License →via

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