October 13, 2015

Will she or will she not?

"Will she or will she not?" I am thinking as I rush through the heavy green portal that leads into a freestone courtyard, taping the six-digit code into the side panel and then pushing open the glass door of our building to hurry across the marble tiled floor and into the massive glass and brass elevator.

"Will she or will she not?" I know she doesn't miss a beat. Nobody gets past her door without her noticing. Nobody!

Will she or will she not, open her door to stop me because she has something important to tell me.

Our concierge is the patron of our building, she has been its guardian for 30 years. It must be strange to feel as if the building is yours but never being able to call it your own.

Danielle lives in a tiny little studio with a built-in kitchenette and a bathroom. Her room on the ground floor with one window directly onto the road - which limited view often gets blocked by parked motorbikes - consists of a table covered by a plastified flowery tablecloth, a twin bed, a TV and an ugly yellow ironing board standing in the middle of it.

Her framed glass door onto the inner courtyard has white sheer curtains to keep curious passers by from peaking inside her "loge". I admit I always try to, just to be prepared in case she rushes out. Her little white, stroppy dog is her partner in crime. He knows each and every tenants’ footsteps and will bark from inside the loge only if he hears a stride he does not recognise.

Danielle has keys to every apartment, she knows where the water leaks and when the rats need to be warded off in the cellar. She can tell you which embassies past tenants have worked for and the names of the football players who used to live in the building. In one case, she has even seen a second generation family move in.

Danielle is a convivial lady who likes to complain. She is, without a doubt, part of the building’s history, the problem is she will happily go over this past with you every time she manages to trap you in front of her loge. Unfortunately, nobody has time to spare for her, since nowadays we are always in a rush.

I do, however, miss her dearly, now that she has retired and moved back South to her home town. The cat and mouse game is over, since the position of concierge will not be renewed, but with her, I feel, not only the buildings’ stories but also its loyal, custodian soul has been lost.

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