Apartment 208.

19 Mar

I had a few hours to vacuum today so I decided to rid my apartment of its wintry residue. By the time the dig-out was well under way, I had the Windex, the vacuum, the Orange-glo mop, and two rolls of paper towels going. I was just thinking I use far too many paper towels when I heard a faint knocking at my front door.

No one ever knocks on your door unexpectedly when you live in a doorman building, unless it’s a neighbor telling you to turn your music down. Although I continue to teach myself the piano and sound as if I am playing with my left foot, I soft-pedal and don’t make much noise. I sometimes have to put a mirror up to my apartment-mate’s nose in order to ensure he is still with us. We don’t get any complaints. So I cautiously looked through the peephole. It was the nice man who lives downstairs somewhere in the building, I’m not exactly sure where. He’s one of the few older men who actually says hello to you on the elevator. The other old men in the building are wary poker-faced throwbacks to the days when you didn’t want to know who your neighbors were in Hell’s Kitchen, days when your neighbors were armed and angry. This guy? He’s sweet. I opened the door.

“I don’t understand. This is supposed to be my apartment,” he groaned as he tapped the 1008 on my doorbell. He began pushing past me to gain entry, compelled by the surprising and unusual powers of insanity. “Why do you have all this junk in here?”

He was confused, but sentient enough to take potshots at my crap. For the moment, I didn’t know which to address first: Finding him his own home or explaining that while my things may look like junk, I was busy cleaning and you may just be responding to disarray, thank you very much. I took the high road.

“Are you sure you want 1008?” I asked, saving him some dignity even though he had just slaughtered mine.

“Yes! My wife and I live downstairs in 208, but we were told we could move in here. And now look! All this STUFF! And not even packed! Are you going to be here long?”

“Well, yes, for the foreseeable future,” I gently explained, “but let’s try and figure out what happened here. Why don’t you go down to the lobby and ask the doorman to put you in touch with the landlord. We’ll get to the bottom of this, I’m sure!”

He seemed appeased by my sunshine. But as he turned to go, he looked back over his shoulder and warned, wagging an ancient index finger, “I’ll be back.” Oh I’ll put the kettle on, I thought, smiling back at him.

Faced with the junk in my apartment again, I got a few garbage bags together, filled them with paper towels, and headed for the front door, ready to take them to the trash compactor down the hall. I froze. I pictured me at the compactor and Mr. Al. Z. Heimer leaping out from nowhere and taking possession of my apartment under some obscure NYC Department of Housing Squatter’s Law. I grabbed my keys.

Great, now I’ll have to lock the goddam door every time I walk two feet down the hall, I grumbled to myself.

I was rather proud of my reaction to him, though. I felt I had treated him with kindness, with respect. I didn’t question his delusion. I simply pointed out that there was merely a minor misunderstanding and not a misfiring in his aged snaggled synapses. I hoped that someday, far off in the future, my wits failing me, I might be treated by some handsome younger fellow with the same measure of humanity. These were the thoughts whirling around in my head as I whirled around the apartment, faster and faster, over and over again, paper towels in hand and looking for the fucking Windex.

It was in the fridge.

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8 Responses to “Apartment 208.”

  1. Sherry March 19, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Laughter to an otherwise dreary day. Mr. Al Z. Heimer is lucky to have stumbled into your apartment and the good graces of a gentle soul.

  2. NC Coot March 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    How kind, Sherry. I don’t deserve it.

  3. Joe Pineda March 20, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    It’s certainly one of those times where you’d feel fragile and probably insecure about your future. But that’s part of being a writer, understanding what lies beyond and behind everything.

    • NC Coot March 21, 2012 at 12:12 am #

      A wise assessment, Joe.

  4. Dugutigui March 21, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    This is great … you can even understand that one ends up putting the Windex in the fridge … hahahaha … after all this civilized misunderstanding and confusion…

    • NC Coot March 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      Cold Windex. No more effective than warm Windex.

  5. Fran July 26, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    What’s a refrigerator….

    • NC Coot July 27, 2015 at 8:27 am #

      It’s next to that thing.

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