Hoitam managed a rickety apartment in a seedy part of town. He had many interesting, colorful characters as tenants. The residents and the job often drove him nuts, what with all the fights, the drugs, the police visits, the late night ambulance calls. And almost all his renters were unhappy with their lot in life and complained incessantly. But the fourth floor was different. On the fourth floor of the eight-story apartment, the tenants were happy, strangely happy. And no one struck Hoitam as more constantly joyful than Jade, the woman, in room 432.
Jade was more than happy. She was unaccountably joyous. She was more filled with ethereal happiness than Hoitam felt she had any right to be. The woman was a cripple and walked with two canes, and even then she went up and down stairs seated. It took her ten minutes to get from the fourth floor to the lobby and twice as long for her to get up to her level from the lobby. She never complained about the continuously broken elevator. She worked a minimum wage job cleaning a theater a few blocks away. She could barely afford rent, and when she was short, Hoitam let it slide. He never gave anyone else a break. But Jade, well, he liked having her around.
He felt like he was floating on a cloud when Jade was near. Her smile was contagious. Her tittering laugh was catching. But most of all, a serenity overcame him as she drew closer, as seemed the case with the folks who lived on the fourth floor near her. In fact, whoever lived or passed by Jade went from looking stressed out to blissed out.
Hoitam occasionally asked her what accounted for her joyfulness in a world of lack and despair. She always just smiled back at him and waggled her finger.
One day it struck Hoitam that he was out of sorts, blue, and had been for a while and then he realized with a start that he had not seen Jade for a few days. He rushed up to her apartment and knocked hard. There was no answer. He pulled out his master key, but when he turned the knob, it was unlocked. He found her resting on her sofa. She was pale and gasping like a fish out of water. Hoitam whipped out his phone and started to dial 911. But when he reached her, he stopped dialing. She seemed fine. She was smiling as usual.
“Are you OK? What’s wrong?”
She smiled and took his phone from his hand and placed it on the floor. Then she said nonchalantly, with a calm joy, as one would when inviting someone to dinner, “I have a problem with my heart. It’s time.”
At first, Hoitam just smiled back. It was so serene in the envelope of this little woman’s space. He reached for his phone, knowing he should do something, but she grasped his arm and pulled his hand into hers.
“No. It’s my time.”
And so Hoitam sat with Jade in silence while her time ran short. As her breathing slowed, he decided to ask her one more time.
“Jade, how do you stay so happy?”
She smiled and beckoned him close and whispered.
“I look for joy in every moment.”