Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today's Ghosts: The Doors

"A ghost a day" is trucking along.  This cold afternoon, I found a graveyard of century-old doors, stacked up in the courtyard.  The doors were splintered, paint-stripped, white, brown, speckled, mottled.  The crystal doorknobs were stripped.

When they were young, the doors covered rooms full of stories but now they stand outside, memorials to workers who came and went, got married, moved, had children, and died, here in Harsenville, in this building, 120 units, generations over and over again, full of hope with New York City in their eyes.

The sounds have walls; the walls had doors but now the music evaporates into the early Spring night.  The bassoon player and the soprano are gone, replaced by a man who coughs his guts out every morning and a couple who scream at each other, go quiet and scream again.  The windows are old and porous.  The ceilings ping the sound back to the walls.

Every morning Mr. B. trudges up seven flights of stairs singing a song in his robust, bass voice.  You can set your clock by him.  He is not a ghost and his song does not linger.  But somewhere, in the depth of the building, are snatches of songs sung by boys who died too early of AIDS in the time when no drugs could prolong life.  They laughed and their voices hang in the air around the laundry room and their jokes stick to the walls like old glue.

The hall in the basement is long and dark and winding.  One door goes to the boiler room, one to the workroom, one to another corridor that I have never been down.  Silent footsteps go down the long hallway, past a door that guards the room that for 30 years I have never seen.  Quiet, quiet, all is quiet in this land of discovery without doors.

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