Invisible. Insubstantial. Non-existent. That’s how you made me feel. I sat outside your window day after day and went unnoticed. Even on the occasion you looked outside, your gaze just cut right through me. I watched you eat breakfast each morning before leaving for your day. I saw you return each night, exhausted, eating whatever random takeout you decided to stop at on your way home, often crashing on the couch without ever stumbling to your bedroom.
I saw the company you kept, and I could always tell who wasn’t right for you. This guy never opened the door for you like any gentleman should. That guy only opened the door so you would walk in front of him and he could stare at your assets. I could spot the lust in his eyes from across your apartment. The other guy was more engaged with his phone than he ever was with your presence. None of them were ever good enough, but you never seemed to notice as quickly as I did. Maybe I was just more observant. Maybe. Certainly.
I also saw what happened that fateful night. I know what went wrong. The power was out, so your neighbor let you borrow his oil lamp. You know the one; your next door neighbor that had nothing but admiration for you, but was just too shy to ever proclaim it aloud. He just observed in silence, much like me. The lamp must have never been used, because when you lit it, I could see the dust begin to heat immediately. You didn’t notice though. After you set the lamp on your counter and turned your back did the dust ignite, sending a small flame right into the bottom of your kitchen cabinet. All I could do was watch. Thankfully, you finally noticed either the flickering light or the heat radiating from a new source. Whatever it was finally tipped you off that your apartment was burning. You turned to me, sitting outside your window in my designated spot, and you finally saw me for the first time. You flung open your window and jumped into my arms. I carried you down to safety and you declared me your hero. Truth is, I would save several more of your neighbors that night, my temperature rising with each pass. I saw each of you get checked out by firemen just prior to being whisked away by an ambulance, but I stood fast.
Afterward, you would think about me and be ever grateful that I was there for you when you needed me most. Eventually, over time, your old apartment building was abandoned and forgotten due to the fire and smoke damage. Your thoughts of me faded, much the same way. In time the building was torn down to make way for something new. I was there when it all came crashing down. Truthfully, I never left. And then there I was mixed into the wreckage. My steel arm bent and mangled. My corrugated landings cracked and broken. Each step that once led to safety now leading to nowhere.