Oh, holy shit.
You see, there’s been this smell. We’ve only smelled it in the front entryway, not terribly strong but somehow obtrusive. And somehow, impossible to ignore.
I thought it was kitchen gas. No, some kind of gas coming off the pipe stack. Or out of the front storm drain? No, something else.
Patrick thought it was garbage overdue to be taken out. Or mildewing laundry. Or something else.
Mike Fitzgerald, our landlord, was sure it was a dead mouse. I bowed to his greater expertise. I haven’t had nearly as much experience with dead mice. Still, it was odd. It was mostly in the front entryway, a tightly constructed area. No place there for a mouse.
All of us were wrong. It’s the next door neighbor, the guy in the basement who’s younger than I am and plays loud music, the one who knows (knew) all the neighbors who’ve been here for decades.
About half an hour ago, Patrick came in and told me that for mysterious reasons, we had three ambulances out front, all with their lights flashing. I went out and stood at the top of our stoop. There were a dozen or more EMTs in the forecourt of the building next door, and a couple of police cars arriving. The first-floor next-door tenants were standing at the top of their own stoop, stiff and unblinking, talking to the EMTs.
My hearing isn’t all that hot, but I’m good at reading body language, and after watching for a little while I knew what had happened.
Oh. Oh my goodness.
I eventually (no idea how long) went over and spoke to the neighbors on their stoop. They said they’d been smelling something for days, same as we had. They said he was sitting in his chair, like he’d been watching TV or something.
(I’d wondered why he’d left his garden lights on continuously for the last several days.)
I told them that someone who looks like that had an easy death. That people who know something’s wrong don’t sit peacefully in their easy chairs.
They’re thinking maybe they’ll find some other place to stay tonight, now that they know what that smell is.
I’m back in my own apartment now. I want a big, big electrical fan. I want to prop the front door open and blow all the air out, until the house doesn’t smell like dead neighbor any more.
Addendum: Okay, now that was interesting. The NYPD is still out front. Last night started with EMTs, then changed to police officers. This morning it’s more detectives than I’ve ever seen before in one place, plus two or three uniformed officers.
One of the detectives came looking for me, buzzed at my door. We had a long conversation. I must remember to ask the landlord whether those loud thumps and bangs I heard some days ago were (as I thought at the time) heavy furniture being moved, or possibly something being built. Because if that wasn’t what was going on, the detective wants to know about it.