Fisicaro relieved me of my doorman duties for what was my final shift, the last time I would be employed by 534 E57th street. No longer part of the sentry. No more hours clocked in the vortex of the lobby where time split and stretched. An hour at the building felt like ten.
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t felt any trepidation about not having a job or anxious about what was in store for me here on out. The locker room seemed more comfortable now than ever before. I didn’t have to worry about doing something wrong. It no longer mattered. The locker room felt smaller than usual. I thought I might even miss this place a little. It was possible in time, down the weaving road of life I might look back on this experience with more fondness than I had thought originally. I tended to have only regrets about all things past.
The locker room consisted of hand me downs, an assortment of donated furniture and devices. Newspaper articles about the Mets and political cartoons were clipped and taped to the mirror. A gaggle of seductive centerfolds torn out of Playboy magazine adorned the fridge, including our own Miss October.
I opened my locker, I really didn’t need any of the shit I collected and stored inside it. I saw myself in the small mirror on the inside of the door to my locker. My name was written in a black, with a Deco paint marker above the mirror. Rainer Manning. Who was I? Have you ever seen yourself in the mirror? Did you like that person? Did you know that person? I didn’t always feel that I did.
It was imperative that I sort out my issues, at least try to understand why I am the way I am, why can’t I find happiness? I knew that most people don’t have your best interest in mind, I would say all people if it weren’t for Gerry, Murphy and my friends over the years. I had chosen solitude. When you thought no one cared, someone does something incredible without wanting or expecting something in return, and you’re floored. I have always felt in my heart that no one was on my side. It’s hard to fathom kindness and sincerity in this day and age, because you were so accustomed having the people who told you that they loved you being the ones who hurt you the most. I was fostered with disappointment, nursed with violence and reared in filth. The dysfunction and the betrayal formed a fortress around your entire being. How could it not?
Ichabod, panting with his spotted tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth, watched me emptying the contents at the bottom of my locker, things I gathered over time, into a large garbage bag. Things I thought I wanted, but things I didn’t need. I filled a bowl with water and placed it next to Ichabod and said, “Maybe I should finally talk to someone. What do you think? A proper therapist, know what I’m saying.”
My psychoanalyst told me to focus on the things that made me happy. Well, what were those things? My friends that I spurned. The cd collection that was now decimated. Drawing made me happy. Murphy. Gerry. Ichabod. I was happy in their company. Agnes. Agnes made me smile which was no small feat. A real, genuine smile, not the masquerade. Gerry’s will and testimony didn’t make me happy but I was appreciative of the opportunity he had given me.
Though it felt unreal. I realized I was procrastinating. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t want it to be a reality. I had a house. A fucking house. This thanksgiving I would definitely have more to be grateful for. If I wasn’t appreciative then I’d be just another thankless, selfish cunt. In all my life I never wanted to be like them, you know, like other people. I made a pledge to myself not to squander this chance.
Gerry afforded me a new stage, a new life, a fresh start and in his words, I climbed a rung. It was about the long game. A smile graced my face, as I thought of another way Gerry brought me some happiness in the form of an image in my mind. The mental picture of Pruitt slumped over, with his throat opened up, covered in dark arterial blood elated me. There was more than one reason to celebrate tonight.
I thought about the cot. My bed for the last month. I went to the boiler room with Ichabod shadowing me, and grabbed the cot, folded it up. Get in, I said to the dog as I closed the service elevator door behind us. I entered the lobby and Franz was consoling Sydney while a strange man awkwardly stood by them, looking down at the marble floor.
“Oh my god, Rainer,” cried Sydney, coming toward me with her arms open.
“I’m so sorry. My deepest condolences,” I said to her, as I placed the cot down to embrace her.
“Why would he do this?” she asked through sobs. She smelled fantastic as I thought about magnetic anomalies, a reduction of serotonin, problematic neurotransmitters, unrelenting depression and paralyzing feelings of inadequacy. It wasn’t fair of me to think but she very well might have been the catalyst that drove Kranepool out of his window. I hugged her as she wept into my shoulder and said nothing. It was not my place to answer the magnitude of her question.
“He was in good spirits yesterday,” said Fisicaro.
“He was such a good guy,” cried Sydney. I wondered about her word choice, why not husband? Guy?
“He will be missed,” I said.
“He was fond of you. He was fond of all the guys,” she said, wiping away tears.
“I’m sorry. I have to do something real quick but leave your luggage here and I’ll bring everything up to your apartment in a few minutes. As soon as I return.”
“Hi,” the man said, looking Californian, like a secondary character from Point Break.
“Hello. How are you?”
“How rude of me,” said Sydney. “This is my friend Patrick.”
He put his hand out and I reluctantly shook it, “Rainer.”
“Patrick,” he said. “Beautiful dog you got there.”
“Thank you. Sydney, my deepest condolences. I’ll be right up with your things.”
“Don’t worry Rainer, I’ll take care of it,” said Fisicaro.
Ichabod and I stood on the intersection of 1st avenue and 57th street. Most of the establishments were closed for the night aside from Neary’s, a candy store and a deli, both of which were open 24 hours. The temperature had dropped, and for a day filled with rain, on and off, it now felt like snow. The homeless man, dirty and wrapped up in blankets, snored loudly. I didn’t see the bottle I bought for him, safe to draw the conclusion he put it away.
“Psst,” I hissed at the man. “Hey, asshole.”
The homeless man woke up with a startle. “Oh, hey man. Thanks for the whiskey, bro.” He closed one eye to see me better.
“You’re welcome. I have something else for you. It’s not great but it’s definitely better than the pavement. here.”
“Yeah man, the cot is yours.”
“Thank you so much, brother,” he said, taking the cot from me, and setting it up on the cold concrete. “I’m going to Rip Van Winkle on this motherfucker.”
“All the best. Good night, Irving.”
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