I visit Sigrid’s apartment with a plate of sugar cookies, store bought because I haven’t yet learned how to bake. She opens the door in a cloud of gold hair and vanilla-scented perfume. In a day or two she’s taking down her fairy Christmas tree, and invited me to see it.
It’s decorated with fairy figurines she made herself.
Mika, who is nine, lives with her parents, Mario and Michiko, and her brother, Max, in Apartment 2d.
My first impression of her: small, watchful, darting. Her straight dark hair falls to her shoulders, and flies out as she bolts up the stairs or around corners in the narrow hallways.
She loves art of all kinds – painting, crafts, making theater props. Outside of her family, the person she’s most connected to at Kilter Street Manor Apartments is Sigrid.
Max is 13 and lives with his parents, Mario and Michiko, and his sister, Mika, in Apartment 2d.
He’s quiet, thin, dark-haired, and often ducks his head, at least in front of people he doesn’t know well. He plays viola and has a lovely, rare smile.
When I see him around the Kilter Street Manor Apartments, he’s usually watching over his sister, or hanging out with a friend or two whose names I don’t know.
Mario lives with his wife, Michiko, and his kids, Max and Mika, in Apartment 2d. He’s the building’s maintenance man, and doesn’t mind the recurring jokes about how he’s a guy named Mario and owns plumbing tools.
He’s cheerful, robust, easygoing, and even-tempered. He isn’t curious about much, but seems to just take things as they come and live with contentment. One of his chief enjoyments is social media. His Instagram site is an ongoing documentation of disasters in Kilter Street Manor Apartments: flaking ceilings, burst pipes, the elevator that only works well for one resident, John.
Both sides of his family came to the U.S. from Italy. Sometimes he likes to play up his Italian heritage by speaking with an exaggerated accent and singing pseudo-arias, because it makes his kids groan.
The main impression I get from Lewis is that he isn’t happy.
He’s a young man, maybe early 20s. Stringy, with a lean face and matted light brown hair. He’s pale and has some freckles under his eyes and on the bridge of his nose. He doesn’t smile much. When he does, his eyes stay hard. He’s angry, maybe, but about what? I don’t know yet.
He lives with his dad, Eben, and works in his dad’s ice cream store.
Michiko, who lives in Apartment 2d with her family, is a high school history teacher. She’s a slender, dark-haired woman who seems often preoccupied in thought. She wears round glasses and carries herself with a slightly defensive hunch. Her voice is firm, her enunciation precise. She knows Latin and reads avidly.
Her maternal grandparents moved to the US from Japan, and her mother was born in the US. Her father was born in Japan and emigrated to the US as a young adult, where he met her mother. She has a few older brothers and is the only girl and the youngest in her birth family.
She’s married to Mario, the Kilter Street Apartments maintenance worker. They have two kids: Max and Mika. Michiko is sometimes bewildered by her marriage. She feels like she fell into it, without much planning, and that amazingly it’s mostly good. She’s glad she met her husband, who’s a decent man and like a steady, warm furnace that doesn’t swelter or go cold. She sometimes can’t believe that this is her life. And that she’s a mother. Even though she isn’t always a demonstrative person, she can honestly say that her kids take her breath away – in a good way.
Eben owns an ice cream shop. That’s what he’s known for around Kilter Street Manor Apartments.
He’s in his 50s. Two things stand out about him at a first glance: he’s broad-shouldered, and his hair is completely white.
He’s a veteran, and from a family that’s served in the military for generations. He can also trace his lineage to some of the earliest colonists who came from England to the US.
His son, Lewis, lives with him and works for him at the shop.