The Borreros family has lived on 12th Street since the 1940’s.
Andres' grandmother, his grandfather, his father, his aunt Cecilia…
Andres on the stoop
Working hard, raising kids, doing the best they could. Their apartment rent protected because the government did something to keep working people working in the city and living in affordable homes.
It was the basement apartment where the windows just peeked over the sidewalk. Andres and his cousins would watch the feet go by.
That was a long, long time ago.
In those days the only visitors to this neighborhood were people driving fast from west to east and then east to west and in between picking up a blow-job or some heroin or whatever it was they couldn’t get except in this neighborhood.
In those days “online” meant the line outside the bordello of a beat-up old building, all the Con Ed guys and all the Telephone Guys waiting for their turn.
And there was no mouse to click to get into the gambling dens – a mouse was still a small rat and if you wanted to enter anything you had to knock. Or know somebody who knocked.
Between those cracks of lines and doors and fast driving cars were families. Like the laundry mat family and the shoemaker family and Olga’s family and the lady who sold fine straw hats but kept no cash in the store and the Open Pantry. And Andres’ family.
All those families? They made a neighborhood. Sure, it was hard growing up but the kids grew up well and when Andres’ grandmother cooked, she cooked for the whole building.
And then, change seeped in through tiny cracks until the cracks were huge. The drugs went inside, the gambling went online and hooking was something you could order with the click of a mouse that wasn’t a small rat.
But Andres’ family was still there. Only now it wasn’t the bordellos or the drug dealers living in between the cracks of a tough neighborhood. It was Andres and his family living between the cracks of a wealthy neighborhood. In prime real estate. Slightly inconvenient to landlords who conveniently forgot how families like Andres kept the neighborhood a neighborhood as crime swirled around them.
Nonetheless, Aunt Cecilia stayed on, working as a front-desk secretary at an animal medical center for 43 years so she could retired, enjoy herself, live out her life in her own home at her own convenience.
But when shit hits the fan between those cracks, it’s like falling into a moving avalanche. Aunt Cecilia got sick. And the short rehab in one of the “best of the worst” nursing home turned into stage four bedsores, a stroke and poor care.
Aunt Cecilia and her friend at dinner
And when that happened the landlord, always waiting for that crack to swallow up inconvenience, insisted rent was not being paid, tenants were not living where they should and eviction was necessary.
And now from deep inside cracks of running back and forth and fighting with the nursing home to give his aunt enough care so she is well enough to return to her own apartment and working on weekends and being denied medical services, all Andres wants to do is make sure his aunt Cecilia gets to die in her own home at her own convenience.
Andres goes to court on October 5th. He is going to fight falling between the cracks. This is what you do when you grow up in this neighborhood and know the cracks are for other things besides hard working people.
Sunday Memories of Rare Friendships: Our Open Pantry, Our Neighborhood
It Was Olga's New York