The Man in 8A
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?