Thursday, December 20, 2012

The man across the hall

There's another apartment directly across the hall from mine--literally five feet away from my threshold. Behind it lived a highly reclusive elderly man. I use the past tense there because he died last week, in his apartment. There was some fuss as the police and paramedics came, then left with a body, leaving a legal notice on the door forbidding entrance while the coroner investigated the circumstances.

A few minutes ago, there was a knock on my door. It was his daughter. She is there to pick up his remaining possessions. She wanted to know if any of his neighbors knew him and could tell her about his life.

This seemed to me kind of an odd request, until she filled in more of the story. He disappeared in 1988, and had not been in contact with his family since then. They had periodically tried to find him, without success. So this poor woman had not seen or heard from her father in almost 25 years, with her first contact being the police calling to tell her of his death. She had had no explanation for why he vanished, no idea where he was. No wonder she was thirsty for any scraps of information about how he had been living.

I told her that when it was warm (most of the year) he kept his door propped open a few inches to let in air, but not enough that anybody could look in, and based on how much of the time the door was cracked that way, he almost never left his apartment.

I only saw him a couple of times in the six years I've been here, when we were both coincidentally leaving or returning at the same time and exchanged a nod and a hello. I assume he was probably just living on Social Security, or maybe he had some sort of pension.

About a year ago I noticed water puddling around his door and seeping out from there down the hall. I immediately contacted building maintenance so they could get the flooding stopped. To my surprise, he was in there! The flooding was coming from the apartment above into his, but rather than call for emergency help to get the leaking stopped, he was just mopping up his floor. Peculiar behavior. It seems that he really did not want to be bother anybody, or to be bothered.

Today was the first time I've seen inside his apartment. It's a studio. It has only one window, and the only thing visible through it is a cinder block wall six inches away. I had never noticed that the next building was so close to the back of ours that the apartments on that side had no view whatsoever. It's the kind of view that makes for a visual punchline in TV sitcoms when somebody first goes into a hotel room or apartment, opens the curtains, and sees a brick wall. I didn't know that there are people who actually live in places where that is the reality. Apparently that has been his entire view of the outside world for many, many years.

I hope that in his effects his daughter finds some sort of explanation for his disappearance and reclusiveness, as I couldn't help her learn anything substantive about him. She seemed like a warm, kind woman, and her pain at having been inexplicably shut out of her father's life for so long was palpable.

I find the whole thing terribly sad. I hope I don't end up like that.

His name was Bob.

15 comments:

Unknown said...

902lol - I had that exact same thought! "I hope I don't turn out like that."

I think all introverts have that fear in the back of their brain...

s.i.

lightning36 said...

End of story = foreshadowing?

darrelplant said...

Carson City recluse, found a month after he died. $200 in his bank account. $7 million in gold bars and coins in his garage. City managed to track down a cousin who hadn't seen him for years who was his closest (or only) family by going to '60s era survivor notices from his father's funeral.

http://blog.sfgate.com/stew/2012/09/18/7m-in-gold-bars-found-in-dead-recluses-nevada-home/

sevencard2003 said...

i know ill die like that, alone with no one around to care, unless i become much better shape financially.

Jon said...

RIP Bob.

NT (aka Cardgrrl) said...

Barring really bad life-luck, what makes people die alone is their own choices in how they spend their time.

Choose to befriend. Choose to be generous. Choose to connect with and serve others. Choose to put a community at the center of your life. Even if you happen to die by yourself, you will not die lonely.

snevman said...

This is a sad story, but there are probably quite a few people like Bob out there and no one really ever notices them as their behavior makes them almost invisible to society.

JT88Keys said...

I don't have anything to add except to say amen to what Cardgrrl said. Beautifully and eloquently stated and struck me right in the feels.

Will R said...

Fuckin' right, Cardgrrl.

jimp220 said...

as my time grows near I have started to become less of a recluse, even though I have a large family it is hard to be close to anyone.

Now I stop to help a lady change her tire, carry something for the elderly, assist neighbors with home repairs. It feels good but it will take a lot to make up for what I've done.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Bob, you'll have your guns to keep you company.

Andy said...

Very sad story. I'm sure many people fear their life ending like this.

Anonymous said...

Too late. You already are like that.

NT (aka Cardgrrl) said...

No, anonymous, he's not.

Agen Poker said...

Yes, i gree with you... Still calm...