Reflections on a Life

The lights were up in an upstairs neighbor’s apartment when I got home.

He had died, sometime around the end of May, the 30th or 31st. His body wasn’t discovered in his apartment until Monday. When I got home from from work that night, there were police cars in my complex’s lot, and my next-door neighbor was waiting to tell me. There was a definite odor, depending on how the wind shifted. About 8:30, they loaded his remains into body bags and loaded them aboard an ambulence.

Tuesday night when I got home after a baseball game after work, the lights in his apartment’s front room were on. His back rooms overlooked the parking lot, and the light from the front rooms shown dimly through the windows.

The rational part of my brain realized immediately that the police and coroner had left the lights on by accident when they left Monday night. Still, it was somewhat unnuerving. Even in life, the lights of his two back rooms were rarely on. From the parking lot, I could see he had no wall decorations. He may not even have had furniture in those two rooms.

He drove a green Ford Explorer, yet one day stopped to talk to me about his Chevrolet tattoos, even though I was giving him every sign of disinterest. My interactions with him, few as they were, were generally things that I tried to avoid if at all possible. I judged him, I admit, on the way he talked — long and drawn out, prone to repetition — and the amount of alcohol he consumed, which was prodigous. (His apartment, as I understand, was so filled with beer bottles that the police had to use a snow shovel to “dig” a path through the bottles to reach his body.) I realize, in our rare conversations, that he was trying to be friendly and neighborly, talking about the things that excited him (like his tattoos) or he thought were interesting (like a giant fat deposit on his left elbow or his COPD), while I was trying to avoid them the way cats avoid water because it was cold, because I didn’t want his leftover pizza, because I just wanted to sit outside and read a book.

He lived like a hermit, and when he died no one, not even family and presumably friends, thought to investigate until he had decomposed enough for the odor to be noticeable.

I don’t even know his name.

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