Ever since I moved in to my Castle High Atop Second Avenue (20 years ago!) there has been a tenant on the first floor named Bill. Bill was the victim of a traffic accident up in Harlem just before I moved in to the building. He was struck by a mail truck and suffered permanent brain damage. By that I mean that he was in a coma and on life support and then spent many many months in recovery and rehab. He emerged with his faculties recovered but had quite a bit of physical challenges. Bill had to use a walker to get around, and he had limited use of his arms.
20 years ago, you would frequently pass Bill on the first floor as he was slowly but deliberately (without the walker) making his way towards the front door. Once he got the heavy door opened he would hang a plastic bag on the doorknob. Then he would retrieve his mail from the box and place it in the bag. Because of his limited motor skills, this was how Bill would get his mail and carry it back to his apartment. As the years passed, he would make the same trip with his walker, which he would leave inside the door while he went out to pick up his mail. Bill would sometimes remind you to take care if you were leaving the building while he was in process, as sometimes people would carelessly sweep out of the building and get his bag caught on the other side of the door. These people are what's known as assholes, and I would always take great care to make sure I didn't inconvenience Bill any further. After I got my rambunctious dogs, I would frequently circle the block to give Bill time to do whatever he was doing and get back to his apartment, rather than chance having a dog jump up and knock him off balance.
I was informed yesterday that Bill had died unexpectedly. He was in the bathroom taking a shower, and when it went on uncharacteristically long his home aide checked on him and found him dead. That explains the night several weeks ago when I took Riley for his late walk, and found several police officers in the building and an ambulance parked outside. At the time I thought Bill had fallen or needed to get to the emergency room.
As Bill's friend and longtime neighbor informed me of his passing yesterday, we stood for a time discussing his life, the building, the landlord, how the place can sometimes be a shit-hole, and losing friends and family unexpectedly. And like every New Yorker who has lived in this city long enough, a city where you have to recognize opportunity and jump on it fast lest you lose out to someone faster, I couldn't help but let my mind wander a bit and consider:
I wonder what that street-level apartment is going to rent for?