December 31st, 2016


There's a tallish, professional-looking man in his 50s who lives on the 4th floor and sometimes we pass in the alley (he goes out for a smoke) or in the elevator. I ran into him twice this morning, once on the way back from the laundry room and again a short while later as I went to pick up a few snacks from the grocery store downstairs. I believe I overheard the grocer address him as Jim as he walked in while I was leaving.

Yesterday evening my intercom phone beeped from the lobby - first time I've had a ring since I moved in - and I picked it up, curious to see who would be petitioning me for admittance to the building. A misdirected pizza maybe? (Or, considering the season, Chinese food?) The voice on the other end was a cheerful female voice who said she wanted to visit someone on the third floor - I think she gave the apartment number as 312 - and wanted someone to let her in; apparently 312 wasn't answering. This all sounded fine, but I thought it best to go down and get a visual on the person, rather than letting them in by the buzzer, sight unseen.

She was an attractive young blonde woman, probably no more than 30. By the time I greeted her at the door she had discovered her mistake: the unit she wanted was on the fourth floor, not the third. So I rode up with her and made chit-chat with her as far as my stop and wished her a good evening, and maybe a pleasant holiday, I don't recall.

I saw her again this morning as we passed each other in front of the building; I was coming out of the grocery that Jim had just entered. Her face was contorted and wet with tears. "Hey," I said with cautious sympathy, "how you doing?"

"I've had better days," she said between muffled sobs.

What can you do? There wasn't much I felt I could do (I didn't want to pry), so I just said, "I'm sorry. I hope the new year is better for you."

"Thank you," she said, and went on her way.

So, what happened? Had she had an overnight encounter with Jim that ended in tears? Or was her story something else, and nothing to do with Jim? If I were the kind of writer who does these things, I suppose I would try to imagine a whole story behind her and Jim. But I'm not, so I won't try.

The bar at the Admiral is not straight but a double convex arc, like a very shallow, rounded W from the patrons' side. This means that you can see your barmates a little bit, without staring them in the face awkwardly.

I sat at the end closer to the door. Adjacent to me there was a man around my age with wavy, shoulder-length hair and a slight Irish accent. He made reference to his Irish heritage at one point, although at another moment he said something about his English side being the reason he's not typically very demonstrative. The woman with him - long brown hair, average looks, a little heavy but not fat, from what I could see - was his companion but not a date from what I could gather. He was very grateful to her for some reason - he told the bartender that she had helped him with "weeks of old mail, bills, and old CDs". I wondered why he would need help - was it an estate matter? But he mentioned just having spoken to his Mum on the phone. He turned to face his lady friend when speaking to her, and the bartender Angela when addressing her. Once he playfully put up his dukes and offered to fight his lady friend - "Hey, I've seen Charlie Bronson movies!" She protested that she was wearing glasses. "Oh you are? Well I never hit a person with glasses."

It wasn't until later - when he left the bar for some reason, and returned after a few minutes - that I understood. He came in tapping his way with a red-tipped white cane, and his friend called his name (I've forgotten it) to help him find her.

So, the friendly, easygoing Irishman had just lost his sight. From overhearing bits of his conversation, I heard him mention a couple of women he knew who had been blinded in shotgun accidents; presumably they had met through some rehabilitation group. One of the women, he said, had been so badly disfigured that she had to wear a mask when going out in public - "I don't know what she looks like, of course - I met her after."