6 years ago
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
In the spirit of telling stories of weird criminal things that happen in your apartment building - I offer this up from 215 East 29th.
They sat, a little crowded at the end of the floor. The three of them sharing the narrow wall between doorways, staring across the hall at the police-taped, sealed door in front of them.
Between them, resting in an old Tupperware lettuce-spinner was a bottle of cheap red wine surround by ice cubes hurriedly broken from their trays. It was as if they had the whole building to themselves, the other six floors amazingly silent. Though they always felt like this, that they lived in this building alone; filling one floor between themselves and "the crazy old guy" they would pass in the elevator, who lived in the fourth apartment on the floor. It made them feel college-like again, this hanging out in the hallway as if it were an addition to their apartments- only this time there were no R.A.'s or homework deadlines to haunt them. And the alcohol of course. They could have never hung out in a dorm drinking alcohol from coffee mugs in the hallway, or at least not advertised it so summarily with the homespun ice bucket.
That had been Natalia's idea - the ice bucket. They had all retreated into their own apartments for their glasses - mugs, rather. Each had had wine glasses, but it seemed too celebratory for their purposes tonight.
Tonight they were holding a memorial service, of sorts, for the crazy old man.
"I heard he was really ill, and it was a mercy . . ."
"I only met him once and he screamed at my boyfriend for five minutes straight."
"He borrowed my phone once. He never complained about my music."
Three girls, sprawled on the dingy red-tiled floor of the hallway, trying to decipher who this man was. Never caring while he shared walls with them - but now - now that his presence was so prevalent behind the police tape - there was an urgent need to know. A swapping of facts and rumors, rare sightings - as if he were a Yeti.
"He had these really long fingernails . . ."
"And that cane . . ."
"With the scraggily hair . . ."
Two of them still had their work clothes on, this being a somewhat impromptu gathering. The third was dressed in thank-god-I'm-home-attire: sweatpants with a bandana tied haphazardly around her head.
They sat for hours, the conversation eventually surpassing this man and his mysterious story and moving on to normal everyday getting-to-know-you things. Who worked where, when everyone moved in, why they had never really spoken before. They huddled there in the walkway, mugs cradled, sipping their wine and giggling over meaningless things. Talking with their hands at points, spilling the red liquid on the floor. Running into their respective apartments to grab chips, or bread, or answer a phone. They sat there, sharing stories and giving advice on menial matters until the early morning hours.
Three girls who shared a floor who had never met.
Not until the guy in the southwest apartment was murdered.