Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Man in 8A

The Man in 8A
Originally uploaded by Ingrid!
My neighbor, the guy in 8A, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. It's a bad way to go, messy and irrevocably final. He'd come home from the hospital about two weeks ago, in pajamas and slippers, shuffling in the door and telling the doorman he was sad because he had no family or friends. Then he said he was going to the package room to pick up his keys. We figure he must have done it that day.

The doorman showed me his picture from his building ID in the computer and he looked like an old man, just another old man. I may have seen him in the elevator, but I didn't recognize him. No one else I talked to knew who he was, even though he'd been living in the building for a very long time.

No one heard the shot, it took almost two weeks for someone to smell the body (god bless this pre-war construction). Even in death it seemed he was invisible and alone.

His things were out on the sidewalk last night. In garbage bags, piled up with the rest of the trash and recyclables. There were clear bags with books, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, real books, not just piles of John Grisham or James Patterson. The books said he had had a rich intellectual life, a mind that worked, that asked questions and looked for answers.

Someone had already come by and taken the majority of the hardcovers, probably to sell. All that was left of them were the dust jackets, left behind like snake skins, worthless, while the books that had been inside went on.

They had already torn out his kitchen cabinets in preparation to renovate his no doubt rent-controlled apartment, getting it ready for new tenants and a higher rent. He had taped pictures of apes and gorillas with their babies to the cabinets. When I saw it I thought of how he'd told the doorman he had no family.

I took a photo of the cabinets, then I gathered a few things here and there, snippets from a book of letters by William Sloane Coffin, images from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and a lovely holiday card showing a Japanese painting of a geisha in the snow. It was not signed, so it's hard to know if he planned to send it or just kept it cause he liked the beauty of the image, the elegant woman in full dress, her body gracefully bent, as if bracing against the wind with her delicate parasol. I want to think that the beauty was the reason.

I made this collage from those things. Cause I've been sad and lonely too. Haven't we all?


At Sunday, August 31, 2008 7:01:00 AM, Blogger Stuart said...

in cyberspace we all hear you scream


At Monday, September 01, 2008 12:36:00 PM, Blogger patrick said...

Thanks for this, Ingrid!

At Monday, September 01, 2008 11:03:00 PM, Blogger Enrique said...

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

I love that he had great books and kept some small lovely things. And I love that you shared this story about him. Thanks. He had more friends than he knew.

At Friday, September 05, 2008 2:24:00 PM, Blogger j said...

So sad, Ingrid. Especially the apes. A good reminder to cherish and nurture the friendships we have. Peace out, you kind-hearted digger of trash, you.

At Sunday, September 07, 2008 2:09:00 PM, Blogger luluvision said...

that really brought tears to my eyes. You did a great tribute to him, ingrid!

At Tuesday, September 09, 2008 2:06:00 PM, Blogger Freyda said...

I know you as the best friend a neighbor could hope for. Now I know you are also the best friend a departed neighbor could hope for. I think you gave 8A what we all hope for when we're gone & that is to be remembered. I did recognize his picture when I saw it, but I didn't know him. Now I will remember him because you gave me his memory. Thanks.

At Wednesday, September 10, 2008 11:52:00 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Ingrid - The man in 8A left behind an exquisite Abyssinian cat. I rescued the cat with the help of the NYPD and she is safely with me. She was extremely thin and dehydrated at the time of rescue. His friends are puzzled as to why he would commit suicide without first placing the cat in a safe spot, like a vet's office. George did have friends, but in the past few years he had become somewhat of a recluse. There was a paid obit in the Times, placed by two old friends. It's all very sad. The beautiful cat mourned for about a week -- she has gained some weight, is eating well and West Chelsea says she has no thyroid, kidney or liver issues. She is the one bright spot in this tale. -- Elizabeth


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