I’ve lived here for five years. Some people in my building have been here for a very long time – decades – and others come and go every few years. My neighbor had been here for a very long time.

Once, shortly after I moved in, my aunt mailed me a package. It was more of my grandmother’s dishes. The delivery person left the box in the hallway, he took it out of the hall and left me a note saying that he was holding it for me since packages go missing. He came by later to give it to me, I was afraid to go over there.

I like using the freight elevator because fewer people use it. Once in a while I saw him coming or going in the freight elevator, too.

A few years ago, a garbage bin was rolled up from the basement, sitting outside of his unit. It was only there for a few days. I think he said that things just accumulate, it’s good to get rid of a few things. Another person on our floor told me she thought it was hazardous, that he was creepy. I thought she didn’t need to get up in everybody’s business.

He had a friend that called on him once in a while. Sometimes we shared an elevator. I don’t remember anything about him.

Once I mentioned to him that my apartment gets drafty. One of the windows swings open and it doesn’t seal well. He said, by the bed? I was initially horrified. But it’s a studio apartment, there are not many places to put a bed. He suggested using duct tape, which I’ve been using. It’s less bad now.

He said he was friends with the person that lived here before me. That he was here for twenty years. How long will I stay? How long can I stay?

Last June, I saw him in the elevator with a young flaming gay man, heading to pride. He looked embarrassed at his companion’s exuberance.

When I saw the legal document wedged in the door, I thought he had perhaps stopped paying rent, that he would move in with a lover. The last time I saw one, it was an eviction for non-payment. There is some kind of closure to moving out. A week or two later, the door to the apartment was open and there was a tv and other sundries in the hallway. My cat was intrigued by the musty smell.

This week, I saw my apartment manager, heading to work on the unit. He told me that my neighbor passed away. That it was good that they found him that day. That when there is no family, the city takes over for two months, tries to find family, and sells the valuables, then returns it to the owner. He didn’t have any family. That he had too many things, filling up the bathtub and the kitchen and the whole place with stuff, barely able to open the front door. That the walls were brown from years of smoke. That he had lived here for fifty years, died at seventy-eight. It was a good life.

I hope he had a good life.

Today, I saw a letter from the Social Security Administration, addressed to him (so I learned his name). The apartment manager wrote DECEASED on it, left it out for the letter carrier to pick up. You’re born alone and you die alone. Rest in peace.



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