There are certain sounds to which one becomes accustomed after several years of living on the first floor of a lobbied apartment building. Late night revelers, disoriented deliverymen, elderly women schmoozing the young doorman, Jonathan. These things to do not phase us. But seldom does one hear the rough walkie-talkie airwaves and heavy step of equipment-wearing men without raising a brow.
On Tuesday, there was a crew of firefighters that called in a SWAT team to the sixth floor of our apartment building on account of gas (the flammable kind). And while the older woman who was hording the cans of gasoline was taken away in handcuffs—after her door was knocked down and the offending substances removed, much to the shocked chatter of the building’s other tenants, ourselves notwithstanding—I was left thinking again about the strange tension between public and private here. Anywhere else and she might have been left to her own devices; would she have been better off in a house where nobody could smell the threatening odor? Probably, it is for the best that her neighbors smelled something, said something, not only for the well-being of all of us living here, but also, ultimately for her own. But which is less sad, which less lonely?
And though her parting words—“I hope you’re happy, Jonathan”—echoed confusingly as she was escorted out, the whole megillah did carry the hushed reverence of a family secret best kept under wraps. Somehow it would seem that we are all in this together.