Haige passes me an umbrella. I slip him a $20. He takes it, unable to look me in the eye. I have a feeling he’s done this before. A lot. I can’t pick his accent – Russian or Romanian? – it doesn’t matter cause regardless, he’s going to be my new super. I thought it only fair to give a little, “Hello Neighbor” gift. Haige has been working for Ranger Management for twenty years. He’s a stocky, short man. His uniformed look is paint-stained pants and shirts. He’s missing some side teeth but you don’t notice unless you manage to catch his hit-and-run smile. In the last twenty years, he’s moved three times in this building, “But this time my apartment overlooks the Hudson River,” he tells me. It’s only taken twenty years. Just a couple of hours before, while processing the money order for the apartment with my bank, the Hispanic teller looks at the payee information and can’t hide her smile. “What?” I ask, as if anticipating a funny joke. “Nah, it’s just that my mother lives in that building.” “What!” I exclaim. “Yeah! She does. She’s been there for twenty years, she loves it.” I bet she’s facing the river too.
Back to Haige. It’s a garden studio so we talk about the situation with the windows. They’re just above ground and sit on top of a huge ditch where garbage and rain fall. “I clean the ditch once a year.” I have trepidations but I always do so I remain calm and just listen.
We’re outside. He locks the door after I’ve taken my pictures. “A girl came to see the studio a day before you showed up.” “Yeah?” I say. “She loved it. She called Kreuza (a.k.a Ranger Management-don’t-mess-with-me, representative) and Kreuza told her no because she had bad credit. She begged me to help her.” He looks at me as if searching for something, “I can’t help her, I can’t do anything, it’s out of my hands.” I don’t know what to say. “She walked away in tears.” That was me 5 years ago. I’m not sure how I bounced back, but I managed to do so. It’s one of those moments that you realize you’re pretty damn lucky.
It starts to rain. “Hang on, let me see if my wife has an umbrella for you.” I thank him with my nod. I pull out my wallet and watch the rain as I wait.