Wednesday, October 21, 2009

icebox


My super woke me up at nine in the morning the other day, knocking on my door in quick, urgent raps. I answered it in my underwear and rubbing my bleary eyes and shivering in the cold. He was wearing sweat pants and a sweatshirt with his hood up. I think he had just woken up as well.

He wanted to let me know that I had to reinstall my radiator. I took it out when I moved in because it’s in an awkward area that takes up valuable real estate in my living room. If I had left it in I’d have nowhere to put my television or my third bookshelf or the tall stereo speaker that’s not connected to anything. It isn’t too large, but the placement of it makes putting anything against that wall nearly impossible.

He said the tenants were beginning to complain about the cold, and he would have to turn on the heat. When I asked him if he could still turn it on without my radiator being installed he said he could but I would be sorry. It gets like an ice box in there, he warned. I thought about this and felt the goose bumps on my arms and chest and shuddered in the chill of my hallway. We went to where the radiator is to be placed and he saw my dilemma but again he warned that I would much rather be warm in the winter than not. I thought about this again. I looked at the wall and made mental measurements. I told him to wait a week.

He agreed and turned to leave but before he left he reminded me that he has a lot of senior citizen tenants that all need there heat and that he would need to turn on the heat that day. I said that was fine. To make sure my absent radiator didn’t cause a pipe leak he told me he would have to go to the basement and turn on the boiler then he would be back up to check to see if any water was dripping. That’s fine, I said. I’ll see you soon.

He went downstairs and I went back to my living room and looked at the wall and sighed and wondered what I would do and which sacrifice I would make. The kitties jumped all around the couch and my desk, still excited that a new person had visited, thinking maybe we would all play.

On his way back up I heard him yelling at someone. YOU GET YOUR SHIT AND YOU GET THE FUCK OUT!!! I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING HEAR IT ANYMORE!!! GET ALL YOUR GOD DAMNED SHIT AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HALLWAY!!!

When he reentered he apologized for all the screaming. I asked if someone was being evicted and he explained that it was a neighborhood drug addict that everyone knew, camping out in the hallway trying to escape the cold. Outside the sky was dreary and grey and the rain fell hard and slanted on the pavement. The drug addict, a woman, slept on porches and beneath trees during the summer. I had wondered what she did when the seasons changed.

I’d seen him talking to her before, in a friendly manner. So I was aware he knew who she was. She burdens herself with bags and bags, filled with items she hopes to sell or maybe that she needs herself. Like I said, everyone knew her. She is short and dark and frail thin. Her face is hard but it’s built to smile even though I know she never smiles anymore. After so long involved in misery even the happiest moments cant make up the distance between joy and despair. Not when they rarely come, as I’m sure they rarely do for her. She only shows worry and suspicion. Her eyes are small and hyper aware. Being a homeless woman in New York leaves little room relief. There is no mercy in the gutters.

So she had camped out in the hallway, in a darkened corner next to an older tenants apartment. The tenant I’m sure knew she was there and didn’t mind. The super though, can’t allow it, so had to kick her out and had to be firm about it. I suppose this is the nature of their relationship. After thinking of it a while, I supposed there couldn’t be much of any other way.

He checked the pipe for leakage and said there was none. As he left I followed him into the hallway and I saw her with all her bags pulling out into cold morning. He warned me again that my apartment would soon be an icebox. I acknowledged this with a nod and said thank you. Then I went to the living room and again looked at the position of my TV and wondered what I would do if I had to move it. There aren’t many more areas it can fit. I decided to brave the cold for a while. A bitter air swept in and a chill rushed through the house.

It could be worse, I thought.

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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at downtownalleys.blogspot.com.