A Homeless Man Died In Front Of My Building And I'm Trying To Process

I've caught myself feeling apathetic about the death of a man I saw often and that's scary.

Jan 16, 2013 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

I'm not a big fan of death and its ancillary products like sickness, dying, hospitals, etc. I'm that friend who doesn't know what to say at your mom's funeral but I come anyway, despite feeling like I'm doing the whole mourning thing wrong. I'm a prop, like the flowers I brought.

When my favorite uncle was found dead in his house last year my mother proceeded to wail at the top of her lungs for minutes. It was strangely comforting and all encompassing -- her primal screams were mine even though I couldn't push them out of my own throat.

After she finished, I asked about the details. Honestly, I don't think I've cried yet. When I think of his raspy baritone calling me up -- "Lena, what's the temperature like in New York, girl? Cold, ain't it!" (my family equates the entire east coast with New York) -- I feel like my chest just got cracked open, but nothing ever falls out. 

I've always been like this. Crying often when I'm frustrated or annoyed but rarely, if ever, when I'm sad. Once, someone called me a "robot" and I didn't correct her. Maybe I am. 

Case in point: Yesterday I found out a man died in front of my building, and that familiar apathy has started to creep in.

I was on the phone when my dog Miles started barking at the door, which meant someone was about to knock. It was around three in the afternoon and I wasn't expecting anyone, much less the police. Officer Ryan informed me that a man had been found in front of my building just an hour before. I'd heard the sirens but I always hear sirens. He asked if there had been anything out of the ordinary that morning, and I said no. Up until this conversation, that day had been nothing special. 

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"Wait, is he not alive?" I asked as it suddenly hit me. 

"Not now he isn't," said the police officer, laughing a little. 

I called my boyfriend. "Dude, some homeless guy died in front of the damn building," and he responded, "Jesus. That sucks." It did suck. Especially since I'm pretty sure I know the man. Not know-know him, of course, but we've talked nearly every morning for the last two years.

When I'd leave to walk my dog he'd usually be sitting on our stoop, sipping a Dunkin' Donuts coffee purchased via his panhandling gig in front of the gas station nearby. Once I even suggested our building put a gate up to keep him and his friends from lounging on our front steps whenever they felt like it. We didn't get the gate and the man is most likely dead. 

It's been a few days and I'm still feeling weird about not feeling more weirded out.

This morning I looked around the building and into the window wells of the basement units to see if it'd jog some emotion but nothing looked amiss or like someone had died on top of it. It's as if it never happened, and that makes me really sad.

The cops didn't know his name and neither did I, but someone must have. I hope when they got the call they were able to cry.