Sad Endings, New Beginnings
By Andrea Freedman
It has now been just over two months since the sudden passing of my friend who I told you about in my last post. Now it is time to face another harsh reality, that being that someone new will be, if they haven’t already, moving into his old apartment.
I remember when he first told me he had moved in there, the excitement in his voice that comes with a fresh start. It is hard to imagine that more than 27 years flew by so quickly and that the place my friend called home for so many years will now be occupied by someone else.
Every home tells a story. There are so many memories in that “cubbie hole” as he used to call it. “It’s a rental”, he used to say. Still, watching it being dismantled bit by bit, seeing the history of the world he had created within that small space was, in a word, heart-wrenching.
It was hard enough emotionally when I helped to clean out his stuff, to see so much of his life given away or simply thrown in the garbage. Then there was the day I made the mistake of getting on the service elevator only for it to open to the building’s loading dock; there staring me in the face were my friend’s couch and mattress.
Even though it wasn’t easy, I was glad to have one more chance to be there, to feel connected to him and to go through all the sentimental things and pictures he had collected. It gave me a temporary feeling of peace. I could see us sitting there on the living room floor talking, or on the couch watching a movie, or on my perch on the stove, while he busied himself in the kitchen preparing provisions for the movie.
Not only was it my friend’s home, but it was also a sanctuary for me. I no longer have my easy home away from home. Since we lived in the same building, his place was a frequent escape for me. I could use it as a retreat or change of atmosphere, and it also came in handy when I didn’t want to answer the phone and could later tell whoever had called me that I was over visiting him.
When a neighbor on his floor mentioned to me the other day that there were painters and workmen in front of what used to be his door, it was just one more finality I had to face. Years of memories have now been wiped away with the stroke of a paintbrush.
It won’t be long before what used to be his home will be void of his personality and taste, transformed into the new standard cookie-cutter style ready for its next occupant, as if the person who lived there before never existed. Once the new tenant puts his or her key in that door, it will be the official end of an era.
Like it or not, in a large high-rise apartment, especially as a building and many of its tenants get on in years, suites are bound to change hands several times over. There is a higher turnover than most of us realize. People move in and out and die every single day. None of us, our belongings or the place we call home is indispensable. Life moves on whether we like it or not.
Cold as it may seem, the landlord has no choice but to rent the apartment to someone new, and I can’t blame them or expect them to keep his apartment as a shrine. Besides, apart from helping to clean out his belongings, I wouldn’t want to be there without him anyway. It may sound silly, but I want to remember the apartment exactly as it was.
None of my friend’s things are there anymore anyway, and soon a new tenant will move in and make it their home. Perhaps they already moved in at the first of the month. Who knows how long he or she will occupy that unit and what new memories will be made there. Will they eventually move on or will they die there like he did?
Through no fault of their own, the new renter or renters may not be welcomed by the other tenants with open arms. I personally plan to avoid them for as long as I can. In fact, I dread the day when one of my neighbors introduces me to the new person occupying what used to be my friend’s place.
I still look up to his balcony when I walk by outside our building, half expecting to see him there. His memory and spirit will live on forever, no matter what physical changes are made to the small space he occupied here. They can rent that apartment to as many new people as they like; but for me and so many other of his neighbors, in our minds, it will always belong to him.♦
Copyright © by Andrea Freedman, 2016