There’s an old man that lives in my building. His name is Frank. By the looks of him, you would think that he was just like any other old man that you would happen to pass on the street, or in my case, the hallway. Old, grumpy, not particularly friendly or harboring any interest in those around them. But, as people tend to be wrong in their first judgements of strangers, as was I in mine. Now, I’ve passed this man many times in the last year and half since I’ve been living here and sometimes I’ve even shot him a smile and tried to give a friendly “Hello,” but the likelihood of actually getting a response from him was always slim to none. Most of the time he would just ignore me and others he would just stare at me blankly for a second as if his mind was searching for an appropriate reaction, but in the end, it would fail him and all I would be left with would be a confused look on an old man’s weathered face. I tended to write this off as the response of what seemed to be a bitter old man who detested the sight of young people. And, yes, I had grounds to think this. Do you know how many people I’ve encountered in apartment buildings, older people that is, who have reacted to me negatively every time they saw me just because of the mere fact that I was young and that they hated that young people lived in their building? Lets just say more than once. In fact, when I used to live on 45th st between 9th and 10th, which by the way, I would kill to go back to, there was an old woman who had probably been there since the 1940’s who lived on the first floor. (Side note: New Yorkers, you will appreciate what I am about to say. This old lady, Cruella, as I like to call her, was paying only $300 for a one bedroom in prime midtown realty. That is why old people never move out of their apartments my friend. Rent control. And when they die the lucky bastards called “family” inherit this ridiculously amazing space for next to nothing that people would literally draw blood over. I don’t even want to mention how much I was paying in the same damn building) Every time I would come in the building, she would poke her head out of her door and sweetly say to me, “You damn kids! Can’t you be quiet! Don’t you know that there are other people living in this building besides you!” I would also occasionally get, “Stop slamming the fucking door!” Ahh..That was always my favorite.
Any who, getting back to what I was originally gossiping about, I can recall one time where I was surprisingly met with what seemed like a ray of hope from my neighborhood Scrooge. As it happened, I was leaving for work one morning in hurry, as per the usual, running, skipping over ever other stair, my BF’s voice in my head yelling to me to “Hold on to the railing!” when I was abruptly forced to stop suddenly on the second floor landing. The old man, cane in hand, was slowly making his way up the stairs to his corner apartment, grunting deeply with exhaustion as he struggled to climb the last few steps. I patiently waited on the side, out of his way, my internal clock tick-tocking away the minutes I would now be late to work due to this inconvenience. He looked up at me, seeming to sense my haste, eyes tired, and apologized in a quiet voice as he lifted himself onto the landing. Quickly, I responded with “No worries,” partly from embarrassment from my behavior and from the realization that I had pegged this old man all wrong. He was capable of giving some sort of response and maybe it wasn’t that he was bitter or unresponsive but the shear fact that he was just old. It never occurred to me that this man, because of his age, was perhaps just socially awkward or inhibited, finding it hard to interact with the outside world. Maybe it’s New York that has slighted me in this way, or maybe it is just because I am young. You forget that life goes full circle, beginning and ending in the exact same place.
(To be continued…I’m tired..)