My neighbor from across the courtyard looked down from her kitchen window. I watched from one of the windows in my apartment, located directly across from my neighbor’s unit. I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy recliner, reading the Sunday edition of the New York Times from several days earlier, listening to Chet Baker blow his trumpet on my CD player with the volume turned low. My neighbor lived with her teenage daughter, who was yelling up to her from below, at the entrance to their building, four flours down. We both lived on the top floor of our four-story apartment buildings. I was in building C in our complex, Mama and daughter were in building D, with a long, narrow and mostly bare courtyard between our buildings.
Mama, I noticed, had her long hair tucked under a dark blue bandanna and wore a loose-fitting Eagles hoodie. I knew she worked night shifts at one of the hospitals. I had introduced myself and helped her get a couple bags of groceries into the foyer of her building during a snowstorm last winter, shortly after I had moved in. I couldn’t think of her name. Ramona? Rosie? It was something like that.
I had no idea what the daughter’s name was, who yelled again from below, “Mama! Mama!”
I got out of my chair, walked closer to the window and looked down. I could see my neighbor’s daughter below, dressed head-to-toe in pink. Even the book bag that was slung over her shoulder was mostly pink. She was hard to miss in her color-coordination; she was very…. pink.
Mama opened her kitchen window and slowly leaned out, waving at her daughter below.
“How’d ya do, baby? How’d ya do?”
“I got a 96, Mama! I got a 96 on the geometry test! The mid-term, Mama! The mid-term! I got a ninety-motherfucking-six!” My neighbor’s daughter giggled and jumped up and down with excitement.
Mama clapped her approval and squealed with delight, hanging out her window. “That’s my baby! That’s my girl!” Mama eventually closed both the screen and window tightly behind her to guard against the October chill. I could see her gently hop up and down in her kitchen, still clapping.
Good girl, I thought. Good girl. Make Mama proud.
And math motherfucking counts!