There was this drug addicted older woman who lived in my building on 15th street.
She must have been in her 50s. Possibly older, or possibly a little younger. Her face was always quite puffy so it was hard to tell, or even ballpark an exact age. (Drug addicts’ faces get puffy?) Unsure of the origin of the puffiness, though I am guessing frequent drug use was the cause.
Actually, she didn’t live in my building. She didn’t belong in my building. She dated this man in our building. He was older too. And had this big really cute dog. I should say, the dog had the potential to be cute, but always looked dirty. Poor dog was likely neglected.
I had several encounters with this woman. I never came to know her name. I did however, come to know that she was a little…off. Unstable. The number of times I was in the elevator with her, she was always babbling about nothing (well sometimes it was about the state of the dog… “that dog, I want to take it out for a walk, he won’t let me …babble babble.”) And other such mutterings. Always dressed in a tattered ripped shirt. Sometimes showcasing a smudge of blue eye makeup on her eyes. Blond hair messy. Eyes glazed over and – squinty. Often she would be carrying that dog in her laundry basket, or on a leash. I would nod and smile nervously, walking quickly out of the elevator when my floor came up.
She lived on floor 6. No – he lived on floor 6. She would frequent his apartment often. I later found out they were in a relationship; boyfriend and girlfriend.
Given my tendency towards apprehension, I became scared of this woman. She was clearly an unwieldy and unpredictable drug addict/possible homeless woman. Known to walk down our block muttering her mutterings. Loudly.
One night I saw her in our vestibule and I gasped before opening the front door. She was lying in the vestibule, spread out, holding crutches. She yelled to me, lemme in, lemme in. (She didn’t have a key to the door, and I don’t live in a doorman building.) Lemme in, Lemme in, she shouted. Oh no. This was a dilemma. I was scared of this woman. I couldn’t let her in. So I didn’t. I kind of walked around her and let myself in. I left her lying there. Pretty inhumane. I immediately knocked on my Supers door, and when he came out, I pointed to the pile of crutches and homeless woman in the vestibule.
“I’ll take care of it.” he said. This was clearly something that happened fairly regularly, given his lack of surprise to see the sight in the vestibule. He rolled his eyes and went back into his apartment.
I’m left to assume an ambulance was called and the police were notified.
“She was probably brought to Bellevue” said a fellow resident I was talking to in the elevator a few days later, recounting my experience to him.
“Sad.” I said.
“Sad.” He agreed.
Days and weeks went by.
It was night again, and I was walking home from the subway station. I get to my block. I see her. She’s acting slightly ‘off’.’ Limping, talking to herself. I think she sees me, she is a few steps ahead of me, and she turns around. Oh no, she saw me. She remembers the time I didn’t let her into the building. She may harm me. Possibly attack me. (Again, I am prone to sometimes irrational apprehension.) However the thought wasn’t too far off. A drug addict has the capability for violence.
I run to outpace her and make it into the building before she can yell at me, or do worse, to let her in. I make it inside my building, and in the elevator, before she does. I am out of breath and my heart is beating so fast. I call my Mom after dead-bolting the door to my apartment.
“Why is someone like that living in your building?”
“She doesn’t live here – I don’t know.”
A few more weeks go by, and a few more incidents occur. I see ambulances outside one day. I ask what happened to a fellow resident I recognize standing nearby.
“It’s the woman…”
“Oh.” We both shake our heads in understanding.
One time my boyfriend calls the ambulance because she is lying in the vestibule again when we want to go outside. The ambulance comes, the police come.
A month or two passes and I am struck by a note in the elevator:
I wanted to let you know that my girlfriend just passed away. She passed away on Saturday morning. She will be missed.
I knew immediately who Frank was referring to. I was struck with sadness. I felt sad for Frank. I felt sad for the drug addicted woman. The note was empty, no one had written any messages of sympathy thus far. I took out a pen from my bag and wrote: “Frank I am so sorry for your loss. My deepest and sincerest condolences.” I did not sign my name.
I came home that night and the note was covered with messages. I was glad I wrote the first message. I was glad people followed. It felt human.
Yesterday I saw the dog. He looked sad and dirty as usual. There was someone new walking him. I looked at the man attached to the dog, and he spoke to me with wide, glazed over eyes, and nervous glances. His face was puffy.