Mr. Blue lived in our attic. He had his own entry up the back stairs but we seldom heard his footsteps. Now and then we invited him to a meal, which he seldom accepted. We sensed he didn’t trust us. Mr. Blue was not the best of company.
“How are you,” we would ask.
“Tired.” Mr. Blue was always tired.
“What have you been doing, Mr. Blue?” we would ask.
Mr. Blue worked from home, but what he did he never explained. Occasionally he took a walk. When he got back, if we were unlucky enough to encounter him, he would always dump his bag of grievances and irritations on our doorstep. He despised every change in the neighborhood, especially the new people with their pooches and their phones. We had pooch and a phone, but he said what he said.
Poor Mr. Blue. Our commiseration was a form of pity he claimed not to want. He hinted he had a plan, an arc his life was following. In a rare moment of openness he revealed it. “By January I’m going to have a girlfriend and get my novel accepted.” It irritated him that we burst into laughter. Anybody but Mr. Blue would see what a joke that was, as if these things were something you could order on Amazon.
We didn’t get a glimpse of him for the next six weeks or so. We imagined him upstairs feverishly tapping away at his novel and trolling websites for Ukrainian brides. We wondered if we’d see ourselves in the novel if it got finished; maybe, we joked, the villainous landlords.
We were concerned that that his eccentricity was turning into pathology and that we might need to take more proactive measures to get him the help he needed. When we bought our house we had tried to have him evicted. Of course we hoped he would not end up on the street, living the wretched life of the homeless but we had no control over that. We finally decided we’d never recoup costs battling his lawyers. We had come to the grim conclusion that he’d outlive us up there.
It was a remarkable surprise when one day he came down to pay his rent and told us he was getting married. He was ahead of schedule. It was only November. We didn’t ask any questions, such as where he and his bride-to-be met or what she was like. Mr. Blue would see our questions as prying. We figured we would meet the girlfriend on the stairs or the sidewalk. Obviously we wondered if she was imaginary, maybe some inflatable sex toy. We had seen a movie about that kind of infatuation and it was hard to erase from memory.
Mr. Blue would be moving out. His lease permitted only one occupant.
Risking misunderstanding, we expressed our wishes to witness the happy occasion of his wedding. Mr. Blue snorted, which we took for a negative.
It was another thing we were wrong about. A week later he gave us a printed invitation. We were amazed and impressed with its professionalism. Later we would suspect it had been an edition of one.
The wedding was at 2:30 Thursday in City Hall. Getting dressed we felt an uncommon lightness, as if it were our lives taking a happy turn.
At City Hall we were escorted into a waiting area. We didn’t know any of the other celebrants. In getting acquainted we discovered they were all waiting for other weddings. We thought that we might have the wrong date or the wrong time even though we knew better. We had been bamboozled. What was the point of Mr. Blue’s deceptions? We were about to go home when a clerk announced the wedding of Mr. Blue and a name we didn’t catch. We followed the clerk into a side chamber and there was a bride in a white dress with a veil and a bridesmaid, but no groom. Just the four of us. The veil covered the bride’s face so we couldn’t satisfy our understandable curiosity.
The judge came in. He was not a genial type and after giving the groom another few minutes, huffed out. The bride and her bridesmaid were whispering to each other in a language we couldn’t make out. Some Slavic-sounding language. Maybe she was, after all, Ukrainian.
If she had lifted her veil we would have felt more inclined to approach sooner and offer our sympathy. It seemed an appropriate thing to do. She must feel very ashamed, we thought. Devastated.
When the clerk escorted another wedding party into the room and it was clear the nuptial window had closed, she lifted her veil. We saw not the pinched face of a shamed woman but a face full of merriment, lips that slipped into an easy smile, sparkling eyes. What was Mr. Blue thinking, abandoning this jewel? She seemed to be taking her abandonment as the comedic course of events, maybe even a blessing. Her name was Chimay or Charmay or something like that. We were too polite to ask what kind of name that was. We noticed her hands were rough and red.
We weren’t sure if this was all meant as a wicked joke. We also considered that something dreadful might have happened to Mr. Blue, an accident of some sort, and we dreaded the police would be at our doorstep when we arrived home. But that didn’t happen.
“Maybe he’s up there finishing the last chapters,” we said, trying to find some humor. We shuddered in tandem at the thought that Mr. Blue might be dead up there in the attic. Neither of us was willing to climb the back steps and find out.
The police came and we told them the story of the aborted wedding. We covered our cowardice by saying we didn’t feel entitled to invade Mr. Blue’s space without his permission. We gave the cops the key and they went up the back stairs and we sat below in the kitchen, anxiety corroding our stomachs.
What a relief it was when they came downstairs without having found the decomposing body of Mr. Blue. Promising to call if anything turned up, we saw them out. We wondered if anything in our behavior made them suspicious of us. They seemed to have a hard time believing our story.