I felt drunk, perhaps Gerry and I had overdid it, and on the clock no less. That was the only way I knew how to do things. Excessive in love and in hatred and in drink. There was a haze to everything but it wasn’t enough to stifle the negative thoughts rattling around my head. Why would it? After all, alcohol was a depressant. I should have been happy but I wasn’t. I was incapable of happiness. Broken. Defective. I had a winning lottery ticket in my hand in the form of a yellow 9” by 12” clasp envelope. The contents of that envelope, life changing. Keys, documents that needed my signature and meticulous instructions. I should have read and signed everything immediately instead I analyzed Gerry’s poor handwriting on the outside of the envelope. It was shameful.
Don’t believe the voices in your head. You’re a good lad. Forge a nice life for yourself. All the best, Gerry
Postscript, Let’s go Mets.
Post postscript. Give Ichabod a treat.
Ichabod and I sat depressed at the door, which I opened to let in some cold, sobering air. Ichabod was now my dog, my responsibility, nothing had ever been mine before. I sat in stasis, I felt fixed to the floor, with our tails wagging, waiting for the shareholders to grace us like good pets we were. Dogs were valued above us, but I understood that, since I valued dogs over most of the human race. I’d choose Ichabod over most people. The marble bench that doubled as a radiator warmed the back of my calves. The heat pumped from the boilers, where my cot was, if you didn’t have the anxiety I had it might be enough to lull you to sleep.
The night sky was dark, the lights illuminated brightly from underneath the rows of awnings in front of every building’s entrance, lining the neatly swept sidewalk. The mice darted from flower pot to flower pot. Steam hissed from a sewer cap like the vapor of depression that rose within me. I felt ineligible, undeserving of what had been bestowed to me. It felt like a dream and I was waiting to wake up. I didn’t ask for it. It didn’t feel right to take it. I waited for someone to step in front and take it away from me. I didn’t want a handout or help from anyone. Not anymore. I didn’t want to feel indebted or burdensome. Whatever I was to have in life I wanted it on my own, on my terms. I couldn’t understand how other people slept at night and now I wondered if I was like them? I fucking hoped not.
I have led a contemplative existence. I haven’t done anything with myself. Time wasted away as I merely observed my surroundings behind foggy, scratched lenses and cracked screens. I have over-thought every little detail of my life experience to death. I stood up, closed the door and looked out onto 57th street through the wrought iron bars. Often I felt imprisoned. Restricted. Limited. I thought somewhere there had to be some person who wasn’t completely terrible looking out of a window, just as sad as I was, just as disgruntled with the hypocrisy and ugliness of humanity as I was. Maybe they also felt stale, frustrated and as stagnant as I did watching everyone else living their pitted lives. Everyone and everything was in motion while my feet felt cemented to the marble floor of this building. You might as well remove my brain and plant a tree in its place. I was not envious of their assets or their accessories or any of the excess but I was jealous of the fact that they were untethered. They could do anything they wanted. I knew too much about them to be jealous of who they were or what they owned, I wanted their freedom.
They tipped us at Christmas not for carrying groceries or putting together a table from Ikea, it was for keeping their secrets, for playing our part in their charade, for the submission. I felt frozen in time while a corrupted civilization moved freely, all the while I bore witness to the arrogance of their pretense and bullshit posturing. Each painstaking day I watched the tenants flaunt their imaginary importance, celebrate weak successes, and spew false constructs.
Mankind was a self righteous and mannerless lot. I had collected and discarded vast amounts of unsolicited advice as thousands of fingers aggressively wagged in my face, scolding me. Blitzed by unsought opinion decreed as fact. They imposed instructions on how they wanted me to think, and dictated their opinions on what I’m supposed to enjoy. The immoral screamed from the soap box about morality. The intolerable used the rooftop to condemn others of being intolerant. Unethical people wanted to educate you on the merit of integrity. It was as if mirrors no longer existed in this world. Incorrigible people obnoxiously paraded their dalliances past me. Look at what they have. Look at what they do. The tenants set a new, even higher bar of superficiality. Bombarded by photographs of their exotic vacations, places I’d never want to visit. Teased by the scraps of their doggy bags as they proudly displayed the name of the five star restaurants. The tenants dangled keys to expensive cars I didn’t want to drive overhead. The tenants constantly flashed meaningless brand names at me. Their migraine inducing baubles refracted light in my direction. I had a front seat to the chronicles of their extravagance, and it only made me more indifferent, unimpressed. No side to pick, no cause to champion, nothing to rally behind only disgust for my fellow man.
None of those things the tenants flaunted and bragged about or seemingly made them feel good about themselves would ever make me happy. The truth was it didn’t make them happy either. The joy they received from these items was temporary. They were always chasing the next transient object, lusting for the newest model, craving the next product to drop. The way the tenants fumbled over possessions in order to impress each other, to impress people they didn’t even like, only made me feel more unfit for this world. They would never find satisfaction in anything just as I struggled to find any redeeming qualities about this place. A record or a campfire could bring me more bliss then all of these status symbols they yearned for just to show others that they had them. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong planet. And almost everyone I knew I wished I had never met.
The building housed some individuals who mocked and insulted the intelligence and grit of those who protected them, transported them, prepared their food, made all of the things they coveted, built their apartment and vacation homes, waited on them and directly and indirectly supported them and helped them generate their wealth. No matter what you do you can’t please everyone. Remember that. You can try your best to be a decent person. You can try to be helpful. You can be eager to assist but regardless of how often you bolt to the door to open it for them, or to fetch their bags from them, laugh at their lame jokes, or lick their bootheels, eventually, you will displease them. You will fail to fulfill the requirements of the fantasy they believe is their lives. If they believe their neighbor across the hall is beneath them, then how do you think they regard the staff?
Franz Fisicaro stood at the door, which broke my unhealthy thought processes, after I snapped out of it I opened the door to let him inside the building. He was a little early for his shift but Fisicaro was always punctual. Fisicaro was the lone overnight doorman, I hated working overnights, not that I slept anyway but it was a different type of exhaustion.
Although he was the doorman, he got away with wearing the more comfortable porter uniform instead of the regular uniform. Fisicaro came to work in his gray Dickies, and went home in them.
“What’s up, Rainer?” said Fisicaro, giving me a high five. “How was your day?”
I was going to mention it being my last shift and Gerry’s health but I reconsidered. “It’s been a strange one.”
“Strange is still better than bad.”
“You heard about Kranepool?”
“Yeah, just awful. Murphy called me earlier and told me the bad news.” The lobby phone rang, and Fisicaro answered it, 534. “It’s for you.”
“For me? Who is it?”
“OK,” I said, wondering what he would want with me. I haven’t seen or spoken to him since his aorta ruptured. I put the receiver to my ear. “Hello.”
“Hi, uh, Rainer,” said Nelson, with some faint static in the background. “It’s Nelson.
“How are you feeling?”
“Not Great,” he said. “Not great, but I’m alive. They said I was lucky.”
“Well, that’s the main thing. Being alive, right?” I wasn’t so sure.
“I wanted to call and say thank you. I know I wasn’t very nice to you and I, well, you helped me. Big time. And I just wanted you to know that I appreciated what you did for me. I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t, if you hadn’t helped me.”
“Not that it matters but out of curiosity are you still living at the building?”
“Take care of yourself, Nelson.” I hung up.
Sugar walked in swinging her pocket book and Fisicaro excused himself, running to his car to grab something he’d forgotten.
“Rainer, I was hoping I would catch you before you left.”
“You caught me.”
“It’s awful news about Gerry. A most trying day. Poor Kranepool and now Gerry. Sweet boys. I will always think fondly of them. I will miss you too.”
“I’m still trying to process it all. Thank you.”
“Life can be the most cruel. I want you to know that it won’t be easy to replace either of you. As much as I don’t want to see you go, it’s a good thing you’re moving onward. I’m happy for you and your future. I think you can do anything you try to do. If there is ever something that I can do to help you, I’m here. Now give me a hug.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Oakland. I really appreciate your kindness. It’s touching.”
“You boys finish the whiskey? I wouldn’t mind a splash. A little nightcap before dreamland.”
“No, there’s plenty. I got you.”
“Have they cleaned the courtyard yet?”
“No,” I said, handing her the shot I poured for her, then poured myself one. Point of no return. “The clean up crew should be here in the morning. If not I’m sure Murphy won’t let it stay like that very long.”
“What would we do without Murphy? If only the shareholders could get over themselves then they’d see we hit the supervisor jackpot.”
“He’s the best,” I said, waiting for her to do the shot.
“Can you open the drapes?” Sugar asked. “I’d like to check on my girl.” I opened them, and revealed the courtyard. A beautiful sight at night. The darkness softened the brutality of the red that stained the fountain and the ground. “Do you know who she is?”
“I haven’t a clue. No one has ever talked about her to me.”
“That poor girl is St. Dymphna. I’m not catholic nor am I Irish. I do enjoy religious history and a taste of whiskey. Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan King in Ireland in the 7th century. The Queen, a catholic, was gorgeous.” I could hear Gerry speaking in the back of my head. A thoroughbred. Total fucking babe. ‘87’ Gertz. “The Queen tragically died and the King went mad with grief. Women can do that to men, you know, drive them crazy. And vice versa. So his counsel suggested he remarry to get out of his depressed state, and he reluctantly agreed but under one condition. She had to be as beautiful as his deceased Queen. Here’s where it gets demented. The King saw the face of his dead wife in his daughter and decided to marry her instead.”
“Disgusting,” I said, making a face as if someone placed spoiled milk under my nose.
“Absolute madness. She, of course, was revolted by the proposal. Aside from the obvious horror of being his own daughter, she was only 14 years old and had already consecrated to Christ and took a vow of chastity. She fled her home with the help of a priest and a few people to Belgium. Only the King found her there and when she refused his offer one last time, he drew a sword and took her head. Beheaded by her own father for not marrying him. Poor, poor beautiful girl. ” said Sugar, who raised her shot. “To the Lily of Éire.”
“Sláinte,” I said. We knocked them shots back.
“Do you know what Dymphna is the patron saint of?” Sugar asked.
I said I didn’t know.
“Mental illness,” said Sugar, clicking her tongue.
“Very fitting,” I said.
“Ain’t that the truth.”