Commentary: Eulogy for Mr. John Doe

Something a bit different today- It’s not the typical historical account or listing of facts about the City generally seen here, but rather a personal account of life in the City. We wholeheartedly encourage you to send your Commentary pieces to thecitydesk@gmail.com. Thank you for your attention in this matter.

The solitude of modern urban life is a both a blessing and a curse for this intrepid journalist. The customs of the city allow me to completely ignore the side-alley swindlers and two-bit fiends that litter our street scape. “Sorry my friend” and “maybe next time” are my standard replies to the empty hands that point in my direction when leaving the train station. In the same way I have dodged largess, I have also missed the kind of casual acquaintances that permeated small town life. The same small town life that I forsook when I left the confines of Michigan, and moved to the big city.

It was a cold night in January that had me questioning whether detachment was worth reclusiveness. Coming home from a roaring night of cocktails at the Coconut Palm Room in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, I commented to my wife about the strange smell in the hallway of our apartment building.

The effluvium had been building for 2 weeks and in my alcohol-induced whimsy, I commented on how it reminded me of college. I once had an Indian roommate who would invite his girlfriend over for a traditional sub-continental fish dinner that usually resulted in a night of carnal pleasure. The smell in our hall intimated the very smell that emanated from my friend’s side of the apartment.

My wife, with all of the insight of a pre-nursing student, remarked that the smell bore a resemblance to the noxious odors associated with urinary-tract infections. With these two observations, we decided to call our building supervisor to report the offensive smell.

Hours later, voices and mechanical beeps coming from the hall aroused us from a cutthroat game of Scrabble. The unmistakable sounds of police radios could be heard in the hall. Soon, our phone rang and the building supervisor managed to tell us that a Mr. John Doe was deceased. We hadn’t seen the old man’s pocked face or smelled the lingering odor of his Kool cigarettes in the lift for over two weeks. His truck hadn’t moved from its regular spot for the same amount of time.

On our floor, we lived farthest away from the old man’s apartment, yet we were the only people who had noticed the smell of his body decomposing. None of his family or friends had come to check on him. Even our building supervisor, who had known the fellow for 15 years, had just assumed the old man was on vacation. As his mail had accumulated in his box, his body, laying in a dark bathroom had been without life for nearly three weeks.

I don’t aspire to much in my simple life, but if I can accomplish one thing, it will be to die a more honorable death than Mr. John Doe of apartment 204 on 293 Oak St. God bless his spirit and have mercy on his soul.
- J. Muller

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