Once, years ago, the man who lived in the apartment below mine committed suicide. The police came pounding on my door in the middle of night to ask questions: Did I know him? When was the last time I saw him? Did I notice anything strange?
I hadn’t. I told them that I didn’t know my neighbor’s name, except for what was on the mailbox, and that I barely knew his face. That in the past eight months or so that I had lived here I only saw him two or three times, his back to me as he clattered into the building, collecting his mail, tangled up with his dog, then disappearing into his apartment quickly, shutting his front door behind him and leaving the stairwell without a trace.
“Wow,” I remarked to the Officer. “This is just like Durkheim said,” referencing the French sociologist who in the late 19th century famously studied suicide. “Who?” the Officer asked. “Does he live in this building? Did he know the deceased?”
For days after the police left there was a enormous lock on my neighbor’s door and stray police tape still tied to the banister from when the apartment had to be protected as a crime scene. About a week later the enormous lock was gone and the smell of ammonia and lemon wax seeped out into the hallway as my neighbor’s mother packed and cleaned her dead son’s apartment, his dog still alive and well snuffling at her feet.
I peeked through the crack of the front door and saw scuffed and scratched wood floors, laundry stacked in a basket, an opened cereal box and felt the tears roll down my cheeks, thinking for a moment of what my own life upstairs would look like without me, especially to some stranger passing by who looked in and only knew me from the stairwell or the street.
End Note: The title for this post is borrowed from the unbelievably great Isabel Coixet film My Life Without Me .