Across The Hall
Friday. Let us cross our collective fingers, my buckos, we are feeling pretty good this morning. Yes indeed. The thought actually occurs I might really BART over to the city Sunday and photograph and Cherry Blossom Parade. I mean actually do it. Carry a lighter camera setup than I normally carry, but go none the less.
I've lived in this apartment building now for something over six years, a building with three floors, four apartments to a floor and a fourth floor penthouse on top. The apartment across from me has been inhabited by a young man and his son. I say “young” thinking in his thirties, but I learn he's forty-four. He was forty-four. He died in a hospice two days ago of prostate cancer. I had no idea. He always struck me as a straightforward, trustworthy, personable guy. When two bookcases arrived by truck some years back he happened to be coming in through the lobby door and gave me a hand carrying them up the stairs as they wouldn't fit in the elevator. We never did much more than nod when we passed, saying hello. His son, maybe ten, was always polite and quiet. I figured a divorce, he having custody of the son, maybe a sad story involved, maybe not, but one like many no doubt and none of them very much fun. I'd noticed lately he'd been sleeping in during the week before picking up his newspaper in the morning and wondered if he'd been laid off, this “recession” showing its ugly face. Ugly face indeed.
I'm told two years ago he fell from a ladder at his job and went in for a checkup. A continuing pain in his back. Nothing to worry about. They found the cancer then, but it was evidently much further along than the cancer they'd found in me four years earlier. He must have been forty-two. Do they run a PSA test when you're forty-two? Did they run them on me when I was that age? I've been very good about getting an annual physical, have been all my life, something I was taught to do in the normal course of events. He evidently avoided them through lack of insurance (although he was covered when he was diagnosed) or just, you know, habit. Guys don't go in for checkups unless something is poking through the skin. As it happens he was African-American. I believe the prostate cancer rates are higher for African-Americans and it tends to appear much earlier.
I wonder about the fact I hadn't been aware enough to know his situation. No, people don't advertise these things and we weren't close in the sense we'd ever had more than a perfunctory conversation, but again: he lived across the hall, we always said hello when we passed, waved when we met getting into our cars in the garage, why would something like this happen totally without my awareness or knowledge? Too isolated? Too uninvolved?
The morning is nice this Friday in Oakland. And I will get out for a walk. For all appearances nothing has changed very much in these last weeks and months other than they're renting an empty apartment opposite my door across the hall.