Does Mrs. Selby have a first name? Her mailbox just says ‘Selby,’ and to be honest, I can’t imagine her with a first name. She seems like she was born Mrs. Selby. (Selby being the name of her second husband, I think.)
Mrs. Selby is old. How old? I don’t know. I’ve heard people wishing her happy birthday on different dates, and she seems to just absorb multiple birthdays as if they’re nothing.
She’s a beautiful woman. Not a magazine beauty, but beautiful in the way of an old china gravy boat or a lace doily. She can talk about almost anything: The weather, the flowers on her windowsill, what she tells her flowers when they’re dying on her. She talks about the mice and squirrels that live in the walls. She’s heard ghosts in the corridors of our apartment building. She tells me about her childhood, her jolly drunk father, her mother who never smiled. She describes books she reads, written by outdoorsy folk who wax poetic about the tawny hides of fawns in dappled woods. She watches black-and-white movies and spoils the endings for me. She watches soap operas and fills me in on which pair of amnesiacs made love last week on a hospital bed or a bearskin rug. I know all of the pet peeves of both her late husbands. As a rule though, she never talks about her only child, who died when he was twenty.