In those days, only the fancy apartments or rich people uptown had air conditioners. So, during hot summer days and nights, Florence, along with all the neighbors, would prop open her front door and hope for a breeze to waft in from the stairwell's window facing Columbia Street.
From all those many opened doors, all the different lives would drift up and down filling the stairs with television commercials, occasional conversations shouted from one room to the next and the smells of a billion things cooking for shabbos or Sunday dinner - all of it weaving in and out of the village of thirty-five apartments.
One late night at home, during a heat wave that had gone on for days and with only a tiny air conditioner in the bedroom, I propped open my front door in hopes of relief. A breeze blew in from the airshaft. And as it did, the cat ran out, unable to resist the cool of 100 year old marble floors. I tried to catch him until, feeling better for the first time in days, I realized he had a good point.
Soon after, like Florence, I began opening my front door into a cool deep night. The cat and I wandered the stairs, listening to our neighbors sleep and humming along with all the air conditioners in the airshaft. And after our stroll, the two of us sat in the still and the silence.
I miss the normalcy of open doors during hot days and sleepless nights, and when my door is closed because the neighbors are awake, I miss my mother.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.