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10th of December 2018


“460 Riverside Drive”

Audio: Read by the author.

We lived on the ground floor. The doorman Earlsat in the lobby. From our living roomthrough the wall we could hearEarl’s explosive sneezes loud and clear.The knob of our apartment’s front doorwas big and brass, and Earl would vigorouslygrasp and twist it, and with rag and smelly polishnoisily buff that knob until it gleamed.It always gleamed. I knewthat brass polish was poison.From our side of the doorthe knob would visiblyturn as Earl twisted it, apparentlyof its own accord,untouched by human hand.Visitors didn’t understand.Who was out there?What ghostly messengerwas rattling away unseenon the other side of the door?Who, sent from where, was trying to get in?The only polite thing was to ignorethe uncanny energy.A lifetime later, it is clear to me,or at least less murky:I understandEarl as a harbingerfrom an undiscovered land.White gloves and can of polish; courtesy.“Don’t fall down, now!” he’d admonish me.Why should I fall? I wondered. I was five,six, seven. I was agile and alive.I roller-skated up and downoutside Grant’s Tomb or on Riverside Drive.It was the old ladies (these were the Fifties)teetering along on their high heels,hatted and gloved, with seamsin their stockings, and with glassy-eyedfox furs draped over their massive chests,who might fall down, not me.Was it because it would have beenrude to warn themthat Earl kept warning me?Mortalityhas caught up with those ladies and with him,rattled their doorknobs (it was time); gone in.That lobby was so cold in wintertime,I still remember;the stiff wind off the riverso strong that neither Earl nor any tenantcould shut the outer door at all.Eventually, Earl, everyone will fall.

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