I've been living in my apartment for a little over six years and, up until a couple of weeks ago, an old fellow named Louie lived two floors below me. I didn't know too much about him but he was always really cool to me; whenever I passed him in the foyer or the stairwell, he would bellow a gravelly "HEY, HOW'RE YA DOIN'!" as he huffed and puffed his way up the stairs to his apartment. On certain summer days he could be found sitting out on the sidewalk on a lawn chair, greeting passerby.
Louie was also well known for giving away half pints of milk to his neighbors; due to some kind of senior citizen's benefit, massive amounts of milk, in half-pint cartons, would periodically be delivered to Louie's apartment and it was way more than he needed. Many a time did I walk by Louie's joint and come away with my arms full, thanks to his dairy giveaways.
A couple of weeks ago on a Tuesday afternoon one of my guitar students came up to my apartment and asked what was going on downstairs. She said there were guys loading furniture out of Louie's apartment and putting it out on the sidewalk. When she passed his open door she saw men emptying bottles of whatever had been in his refrigerator into the sink.
I called the landlord's office and found out that indeed, Louie had passed away. The official cause of death appeared to be Old Age. I'm not sure how old he was but it had to be close to 90.
The guy had lived a long life and I can't say that his passing was exactly tragic but I did find it sad that, after putting in that many years on this planet, after beating the odds and surviving for that long, through World War and The Great Depression and disease, having witnessed countless major historical events -- Nazi Germany, Watergate, Civil Rights, assassinations, the Cold War, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11, not to mention the Son of Sam, SARS, Killer Bees, Avian Flu, West Nile Virus, "Orange" terror alerts, blackouts, the Y2K Bug and of course Living In New York City -- after getting through all that and basically being a good person along the way, the whole journey ends with strange men dumping your stuff out onto the street.
I know this kind of thing happens all the time; old people die and their lives just kind of get swept under the rug, and most people don't even notice they're gone, their absence doesn't really change anything. The loss of a life barely registers on the radar of the world; it's hopelessly drowned out in the deafening roar of humanity speeding along in its crushing course. People live until they're used up, and their spent husks just blow away in the wind, while the human race marches on indifferently, hustling to the train, blowing stoplights to get to work on time, hurtling through their lives at warp speed.
Don't be in such a hurry, people. The end of this story isn't all that great. R.I.P. Louie.