He had first noticed her one morning in January, on the roof of the building across the road from his, sitting next to the water tank with her legs dangling over the side. That was what had caught his attention as he wandered sleepily out onto his balcony. The thought of her falling, or jumping, off the roof passed through his semi-conscious mind, followed immediately by the thought that he would then be compelled to go over and do something. That sort of thing would have put a serious crimp in his schedule.
Of course, he had been aware that the building opposite operated as something of a working women's hostel, alerted to that fact by the steady stream of call center taxis that stopped in front of the gate through the night, invading his own tired sleep, as they ferried its inmates to and from work.But he'd never paid much attention to the women until that fore-noon, when he'd stepped out onto his balcony to catch some sunlight and fresh air as part of his new year's resolution of living a healthier lifestyle. Through January, while reading the papers out in the sun and sipping on green tea in the hope that it would up his metabolism and help him burn flab, he'd been sneaking glimpses across the road to see if she was there. He saw her at least 3 times a week on the terrace, sometimes talking on the phone, sometimes reading the papers, sometimes putting her laundry out to dry.
By mid-February, he'd come to expect to see her in the mornings, and was disappointed on the days when she did not appear. By the end of the month, he knew when she went to the supermarket around the corner to buy groceries (alternate Fridays), that she usually wasn't home on weekends (he'd gotten quite tanned reading the Sunday supplements out on the balcony waiting for her to show), that she probably worked a late night shift and woke up late (she never came out on the terrace before 11.30) and that he had a crush on her.
With that final deduction, though, came the question of what he could, or would, do about it. After a lot of deliberation and searching on the internet for motivational articles and tips on impressing women, he decided that he would go ahead and talk to her. It wasn't according to type for him, but then playing to type hadn't really been too successful for him until now, resulting in 2 one-sided infatuations where he had been too shy to tell the objects of his affection about his feelings and one proto-relationship where the girl too had been afflicted by the problem, and they'd remained 'just' friends for 2 years before she moved to a different city and got married a year later to some guy her parents found.
And so it was that on the first Friday of March he bathed and dressed early and made out a grocery list and set out for the supermarket. He loitered about the aisles in the cosmetics and men's personal health section, trying to avoid the eye of the salesgirl trying to flog a new range of bath products as he scanned the rest of the store. And then, just as he was beginning to lose his resolve and let the sales-girl start talking about the exfoliating properties of micro-granules, he saw the girl. She was standing in the breakfast cereals section, seemingly weighing the merits of corn flakes versus muesli. He thought up a somewhat lame joke as his opening line and tried to psyche himself up into being cocky and funny, like they said in the lad mags. But before he could push his shopping cart across, though, he saw that she was not alone this week. There was another girl, one of the other tenants - he had noticed her sneak up to the terrace every once in a while for a smoke. It was enough to kill his resolve.
And that was the end of that. That Monday, his clients in the US would set their clocks back an hour, which meant that he would also have to get in to office earlier. He would not have the luxury of lingering over tea in the mornings for another eight months, which meant that he'd probably not be seeing her regularly again. It wouldn't have worked out anyway, he told himself. At least the body wash he'd bought that day had made his skin smoother, so it wasn't all a total wash-out.