One of the perks of living in what was formerly “the largest apartment house in the world” is its six entrances, enabling you to skip an entire avenue block of winter weather just by ducking inside.
Gotta make it past the doorman, of course, but after living here for nine years, this is a non-issue.
Until this weekend.
Instead of the usual smile of recognition and remote unlocking of the lobby door, the uniformed man behind the station gives me a blank stare.
I don’t recognize him either, so I take out my earbuds and announce my building and apartment number.
Don’t you have your key card? he asks.
No, but can’t you just look up my picture?
New system isn’t working, he says stiffly, glancing at the woman waiting behind me.
Okay, I say, what else do you need? My last name’s Rodríguez—
Huh. That’s you…really? I don’t recognize you, he explains. But your ex-husband was the one who died in the building, right?
His words punch through my four layers of clothing and hit me squarely in the scar tissue.
Suddenly, I am the white elephant in the lobby vestibule.
I struggle for scalding words but all I’ve got are the fact-checking kind.
He’s my late husband, not ex, I mutter, yanking on the door, which finally opens.
My mouth is still open in shock when I pass the concierge, who greets me by name.
By the time I get upstairs, I am somewhere between seething and sorrowful.
I change out of my clothes, wash my face and take an anger walk around the apartment.
Try to settle into bed but I can’t shake it.
I want to call that doorman.
And say what?
You’re an asshat?
He doesn’t realize the world of hurt that his comment inflicted. He thinks our awkward exchange was because the system technology wasn’t working.
I get out of bed.
I verbalize what I want to say until the words come out without venom or tears.
Then I pull on pajamas and Uggs and head downstairs.
I traverse the avenue block indoors, take a deep breath and enter the same vestibule I couldn’t wait to escape an hour ago.
Listen, I say to the 40-something doorman with blank eyes.
I know you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings earlier, but you did. In the future, if you don’t recognize me—or any other widow who lives here—don’t mention that our husbands died in the building. Seriously, it’s probably one of the most insensitive things you could say to us.
I am very sorry I said this, he says, blinking. And I am sorry you had to come downstairs to tell me.
Me too, I say, but apology accepted. And hey, now you know.