Slice of New York City Life

A friendly guy often stood in front of Sekhnet’s building having a cigarette.  Sekhnet hates the smell of cigarette smoke, and noisily protests whenever a whiff of it rolls over her, but she and I became friendly with this guy who always had a big smile and small talk when we ran into him in the street.  He worked as a contractor of some kind, with only modest financial success, and his hours were odd.  You could run into him smoking out there during the day or at two a.m.  

His girlfriend lived in the building, he lived there too, in fact.  She wouldn’t let him smoke in the apartment, and fair enough, so he went down to the street, stood in front of the building, and cheerfully shot the shit with people coming in and out.   It emerged that his girlfriend, a fairly agoraphobic woman, was deeply involved in the rescue and fostering of unwanted cats.   They had two adopted strays, Sid and Gus.  When our cat, Skaynes, was suddenly very ill– on the eve of a two week trip we had planned— these two lovingly trundled him off to the vet for daily treatment of his newly diagnosed pancreatitis.  Along with the son of old friends, on hand in the apartment to otherwise take care of the cat’s needs, these three literally saved the Baron’s life.[1]

We had dinner with them a couple of times, I read the dark play the guy’s father had written about his life in prison, culminating in a smuggled razor blade, presumably to end his life, tucked somewhere safe as they transported him to another prison, or a death chamber.   Father and son had had a reconciliation before the old man died.  Actually, it was all good, it’s just that the older man had spent much of his life locked up for crimes he claimed he’d never committed.  Lived out the last years of his life a free man.

Now we fast forward a year or so, troubles in the relationship between these new friends of ours.  The man also had untreated heart issues, the occasional pains in the chest, shortness of breath.   He’d been told he had heart issues, but didn’t have insurance so had been reluctant to see a doctor.  He got a stern lecture about smoking every time Sekhnet passed him having a cigarette downstairs.  There was a self-destructive side to him, certainly.  

Then, a phone call.  The woman had been having problems with her phone, when they got fixed she heard the message from the man’s mother.  He was in the hospital in New Jersey.  He had signed a DNR.  They had taken him off life support. “He looked good,” she reported after visiting the young, healthy-looking man lying unresponsive in the hospital bed, disconnected from all life support.   A day or two later he was dead.


[1] Among his names is the title Baron Von Doghead



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