So, last night I found out about another loss. I ran into a man who was a neighbor of ours 2 buildings ago. He stopped me in the middle of the street; unshaven and unfocused. He told me his wife died last week.
This is (was?) a really nice couple that I’ve known for many years. I never knew their names, and they didn’t know mine, but we knew each other’s habits, and they knew my children’s names. My oldest son was just about 3 years old when we met on the elevator. He was in awe of the size of the woman’s belly, and “whispered” to me about it. If you know children, you know three year olds don’t whisper very quietly. She laughed and agreed with him, pointed out his round belly, and a friendship was formed that lasted long beyond our residence in that building.
She and her husband always stopped to say hi, and told my kids stories of their own childhoods and sibling rivalries. When the dog joined our family, a couple of years after my youngest was born, he teased me about not having enough to do. I often saw him outside the building or down the street, sneaking a smoke while she pretended not to notice.
I never understand why New Yorkers have a reputation of being unfriendly. We may not have everyone over for dinner, but we know each other. We smile, say hello, note the growth of children and missing loved ones. Especially the few of us left who are working class, hanging in and hanging on, just trying to live our lives in a city that would rather imagine we don’t exist–waiting for the opportunity to buy out our buildings and convert them to “market rate.”