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Samantha stared at the wall, trying not to think about the fact that complete strangers were parading around her apartment, opening up the closet, inspecting her kitchen cabinets. “Could you — could you not do that, please,” she said to the man now going through her underwear drawer.
      “I’m just seeing how deep it is,” pushing his hands past the nice silk panties to the grubby period Hanes.
      She wanted to order them out. She wanted to say, alright, that’s it, everybody now, then slam the door. But she didn’t know if she could and as she looked at the broker again for help, the guy just shrugged, as useless now as in the beginning.
      The first time he’d come by, assessor and photographer in tow, the schmuck had been a bastion of information, not knowing when the estate planned on selling or who even owned her apartment now that the landlord was dead. He’d just looked at the assessor every time Samantha asked a question, mumbling his boss had told him to get the place ready to list and he didn’t know what was going on either.
      Of course he was lying. “They just don’t want to offer you a buyout,” her friends said, “The less they tell you, the more likely they think you’ll be to panic and leave.” And the more Samantha asked, the more he ignored her, telling the photographer to hurry it up when she set down her camera to contemplate the shot, sliding Samantha’s pasta jar from one side of the counter to the other to see how it looked. “Here,” said the broker, yanking Samantha’s apron off the wall, “We told her to remove all personal items,” knowing the item he most wanted to remove was her.
      “Don’t worry,” her friends told her when she said she thought this whole situation might render her homeless, that she couldn’t afford to move, “It’s a large estate,” and they were right: Her landlord owned half of 86th Street, had bought back when no one wanted to live on the Upper West Side. “Selling your place will take years,” they said, and she’d believed them.
      Then a month later, she found herself the one taking time, telling the broker over and over that no, he could not show on Tuesday, Thursday at 4 would not do, “I’m sorry but Saturdays aren’t convenient for me.” She had to let them in at some point, all these people who wanted her out, she had to let them through, it was law, and while nobody seemed to know quite which law — all these friends of hers who’d never had their landlord die — Samantha was sure there had to be something somewhere that said if you inherited an apartment you could do whatever the hell you wanted. But still, she owned everything inside, this was where she lived, and staring at that wall, she tried not to scream while the broker paraded more and more strangers around, the underwear man now shoving his head underneath her bed, saying “I need to check the floor,” as Samantha wondered how he could do that — not legally but morally — how even in a city like New York where people took what they wanted somebody could do that, could shove their hand in someone else’s drawer and crawl underneath their bed, how all these people could come into a space that clearly was hers but wasn’t, asking the broker, “Will this wall come down?” and moving Samantha’s life every which way they wanted.

© 2021 Terena Elizabeth Bell

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