Survival of Retro-Fittest


Across the hall and down one door – an open door, free for me to pry into and see the condition of the pit of last weekend’s three a.m. campfire. I looked in gently; I couldn’t hear anyone working in there, but I’m polite enough t let somebody repair his life in dignity. There were ashes still on the ground – there are ashes still on the ground by the back alley dumpster where the torched futon mattress laid for days – but another futon was there, and an expandable table with the flaps down. (Pardon me for not knowing the proper furniture name.) It still looked liveable, from what I could see, and it looked like the tenant still lived there.

I saw him last weekend, the morning after (or, given the wee hour of this accident, technically the morning of) but not in our building. He was outside an apartment building across the street where our caretakers reside. We were both there to see him, for separate reasons of course, but I briefly talked to him. He spent the night in hospital, his eyes were still in pain due to smoke exposure, and he couldn’t get into his apartment because the firefighters had to hammer through the deadbolt and a new lock was put in place within six hours of this event. He wanted to gather what remained of his things, at the very least, but ideally he wanted to go home. From what I saw today, it looks like he can, and it also looks like he has.

Say what you will about old “character buildings” with antiquated HVAC that makes temperature control quaintly vintage, and the nth generation of flooring and furnishing that is already out of date. I live between solid walls, even if the windows don’t seal out all the cold air and the wooden doors can’t mask a hallway whisper. As a whole, I feel safer in a structure that was built before my city’s trademark culture of self-deprication, even knowing I have neighbours who own futons, sometimes smoke, and sometimes fall asleep.


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