BY KATE WALTER | The neighbor who used to live in my Westbeth apartment knocked on my door to ask if I had gotten any of his mail by mistake.
“No, not recently,” I told him.
Jeff had moved to another floor in our fabled artists housing complex. I’d lived in his old space for eight years but occasionally I’d still get a stray piece of his mail.
As Jeff stood in my doorway peeping in, I sensed he wanted to see what his former home appeared like now. So I invited him inside. He told me it looked great and started to reminisce about how the furniture was arranged when he lived here. He conjured up the layout for me.
I envied the fact he’d had a river view, now blocked by the tall condo building on the corner.
Truthfully, it seemed like he didn’t want to leave. He was probably in my apartment a little more than 10 minutes. I dropped gentle hints with my body language — walking toward the open door — that it was time to go. I barely knew him and I was expecting company.
We said goodbye. I told him I’d keep an eye out for any mail. I gathered he was expecting something important.
Within 10 days after his appearance, he was dead. I was shocked when I saw his picture with RIP posted on the bulletin board in the main lobby. Now I felt glad I was home when he came to my door and grateful I invited him to tour his old apartment. I gave him a gift, a final visit.
Naturally, this had me wondering. Did Jeff have any inkling he was going to pass? Did he have a need to see his former digs one more time? Or was it just a coincidence that he came by?
Later, I learned from a neighbor that he had just been released from the hospital with pneumonia and was trying to get his strength back. I figured Jeff must have come to my door shortly after he’d returned home. He didn’t appear sick to me.
As I processed this news, I was haunted by the surprise visit. Looking back, it felt as if my neighbor was coming full circle and needed to reconnect with his memories here, like a form of closure.
When I posted about this on social media, everyone said it was kind of me to let him in. Of course, I did. I’m a friendly person and I live in community of artists; it’s not your typical New York City building.
I knew Jeff Andrews was a bass player, but I had no idea about his career. After he died, I saw the videos that friends had posted on Facebook, including a brilliant solo of his playing bass with the legendary jazz fusion band Steps Ahead. I had some of their albums.
About two weeks after Jeff passed away, the letter he was seeking arrived in my box. I took it down to the mailroom, gave it to our carrier, so she could put it in his box for his brother to pick up.