A Hail Maria and a Hangover before Leaving Town

Photo by Jose Padua
When I told my neighbor Maria
I was leaving my apartment
next door to hers on Avenue B
she almost cried. I wasn’t
a great neighbor. I sometimes
made some noise, but then
I never complained that
her teenaged grandkids
would open and shut the doors
at all hours, and I never minded
when the woman down the hall
would spend Sunday mornings
belting out Olivia Newton John songs
in Spanish while I suffered through
my usual morning hangover.
Sometimes I helped Maria with her groceries
up the four flights of stairs,
or chatted with her in the hall
and sometimes all I did was say
“good morning” or “good evening”
with a smile and a nod
but probably what she appreciated
most about me was that
I wasn’t a junkie.
For Maria there was nothing scarier
than the “junkie people” in the halls,
or around the corner,
as she made her slow, steady way home;
and even when I climbed up the stairs
drunk and reeking of dive bar smoke
and liquor,
I was at least aware of her,
my good and decent neighbor,
and not off in some heroin-fueled
layer of the Earth’s ozone.
And as I gave her a goodbye hug
and walked away,
I actually began to feel myself in a state
of accidental holiness–
great, honored, spiritual,
not so much for the things I was,
or the things I’d done,
but for the things I didn’t do
and the things I was not;
and as I started packing up
everything in the apartment that was mine,
it occurred to me that maybe,
for now,
it was enough.

-Jose Padua

The photograph of the corner of Avenue B and 4th Street, which is what I would see when I opened the front door of my apartment building where I lived in New York, was taken earlier this month.

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