In all the six years I’ve lived in my apartment, no one ever really moved in or out. That is, until the new landlord bought the place. Then, all the old patrons started flocking away from here and the youngins starting migrating in. The landlord remodeling each apartment in between the move outs & ins.
All but one man, right next to my apartment. Well… down a half flight of stairs, and across the hall from my apartment. It’s a weird layout.
When I first moved in, I was told this guy had already been living here for 16 years. He lived alone in a tiny ass apartment with one window in the back. Never had many visitors, except when his oxygen tanks were being delivered. He was really skinny and often hung out in a ratty old tank top, boxers, and slippers. He barely spoke English at all. I saw him in the European deli down the block a couple times, but I think that’s the only place he ever went. He usually sat on his bed with the screen door propped open. Or stood out on the deck, just neighborhood-watching. I used to think he was little creepy, then I realized he was just a shy person used to being alone. I learned this fact after my exploring cat tried to go into his apartment several times, I think he ate a lot of fish. I sometimes thought the only word he knew was “hello”, because that’s all I ever heard him say. But he must have known more than that, because he was always able to direct my food deliveries to the correct destination.
One day as Marc was leaving for work, he saw a fire truck and an ambulance parked out front of the building. They were carrying the old man away on a stretcher. When he saw Marc, he waved to him with a big smile on his face. Naturally, Marc thought “it must be something minor, he’s fine, he’ll be back.”
We never saw him again after that. Landlord said he was in hospice care. And now that they’re remodeling his apartment, one can only assume…
They started clearing out his belongings, to get ready for the remodel. For weeks, they had piles of stuff out on the deck, to be carried down to the dumpster. One night when I came home from work, this was laying out there. It’s so corny, I had to grab it. Now I’m kinda in love with it.
There’s no point to my story. It’s just that this old man touched my life and I never knew him in the slightest. I couldn’t even tell you his name. I actually miss his presence when I come home. I miss someone awkwardly saying hello to me in his little robot-like voice. I miss knowing that someone else is checking to see what that sound was outside the building. I miss having someone around who made this place feel like a community… Somehow, without actually doing anything at all, he was just there, keeping watch. It was kind of comforting.
If I ever fell down the many flights of stairs in this damn building, I know he would have called 911. Now, who would call em? I’d be like Kitty Genovese… thirteen apartments in this building, at least twice as many residents. They’d all be too busy staring at their phones and drinking Old Style to notice my broken legs/arm/neck. I already know whoever moves in there won’t be nearly as enjoyable as a neighbor, as that old man was.
Here’s to you, old man. Thanks for looking out for me for a few years and the lovely swan photo that I will forever cherish now.