The Electric Bill

Emil, my landlord, came over yesterday and told me I need to help with the electricity bill. My job is to read the black meter that looks like an antique diving mask implanted eye level into a wall in the foyer. I write the numbers on a piece of scrap paper and tape the paper to the front door by mid-month. Electricity people will come by, he says, read the numbers, write a bill and slide it under the door. Yes, I say. Gladly. Eagerly. Participating in the most minute tasks that are the machinery of daily life are what brings me closer to feeling as if I live here.

When he left, he pointed to the front door of the flat next door and said, “Here is example.” Taped onto the brown vinyl beneath a cluster of three peepholes was a piece of lined paper, the kind I used in three-ring binders when I went to grammar school. The numbers I could read; the words looked like smashed bugs or maybe Klingon?

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