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The rain, the wind, the humidity, and only in the elevator 0

Two weeks ago our next-door neighbor knocked on our door for the first time ever. Giorgia’s about 40 years old and, along with her 70-year-old mother, has lived in the apartment next to ours for the past four years.

It was 7:30pm, and I was surprised to see a neighbor at the door because no neighbor has ever knocked on our door, ever. The only words we’ve exchanged with anybody in our building have been while taking the elevator up or down.

Giorgia was anxious to talk to Francesca. She even put a foot inside our apartment and peeked around the door to see if Francesca was here.

“Francesca will be home in an hour,” I said. “If you want, I’ll send her over as soon as she gets back.”

Blushing and frowning, Giorgia shook her head. “No, no. I’ll come back in the morning.”

But Giorgia didn’t come back in the morning. Instead, she came back ten days later, which was last Wednesday. I glanced through the peephole, saw her and, being in my underwear, let Francesca respond.

Eavesdropping from around the corner in the kitchen, I heard Giorgia ask for 100 euros. “Neither mine nor my mother’s ATM cards are working,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” Francesca said. “I don’t keep that much money in the apartment.”

“Would you mind going to the ATM machine and withdrawing the money? Now. I really need it. I’m sorry. Otherwise, I wouldn’t ask. Our cleaning lady is about to go on vacation, and we already owe her for the past few months of work. We have two other apartments in Rome, and this lady cleans them all.”

Francesca came and asked me if I had 100 euros in the apartment, knowing perfectly well that I did. I gave her the 100 euros, figuring I’d never see that money again and wondering why Giorgia would ask us, people with whom in four years she’d spoken about nothing more than the rain, the wind, the humidity, and only in the elevator. Had someone told her we were moving? Was she seizing an opportunity?

“I’ll pay you back Friday,” Giorgia said. “I promise.” And then she went on to talk about her husband who lives in Orlando, Florida, and works at Disney World. The fact that she was even married—and to a man who lives across the Atlantic no less—was news to digest. Couldn’t he wire her the money?

She also said that she worked at Dolce & Gabbana but hadn’t been paid in months. Then she repeated her promise to pay us back, and left.

I’d heard payback promises before, especially the desperate ones. For some reason only the ether can explain, the more desperate ones are less reliable.

The almighty question was: would I or would I not get my money back? And the invincible answer was: yes, Giorgia paid us back yesterday, just as she said she would. BUT . . . only 90 euros, which is fine with me because I’d written off the whole hundred.

So I guess this goes to show that sometimes people can be trusted, even if the only things you’ve ever discussed are the rain, the wind, the humidity, and only in the elevator.

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