Goodbye, Brad

Brad, my 82 year old handyman who lives in the unit beneath my staircase, passed away this morning, the second day of two thousand and fourteen. He was not alone, but with his niece, who was in the process of taking him to the hospital, for he was complaining about pains in his stomach.

I live in an apartment in Santa Monica, California. It's on top of a garage located at the back of a four unit, one story house. My windows face west to a street lined with palm trees. Underneath the staircase leading to my apartment is an additional, unmarked unit and that's where Brad lives. He's the handyman and he's 82 years old.

Brad grew up in Santa Monica. He's lived here all his life. He's wiry and hunched. He wears a baseball hat and has a tube in his nose for oxygen. He sometimes sneezes and curses at the same time. He sits in the sun all day and if the sun isn't out he sits inside all day. He reads a lot of books. Always paperbacks.

Brad's room underneath the stairs is only large enough for a single bed and a table lining the wall opposite the door. On top of the table are clumps of papers. I know he has a microwave but I've never seen it, only heard it. The floor in Brad's apartment has been overlooked for quite some time, as layers of thick dirt and grime cover the old linoleum. The only reason I know what his apartment looks like is because it's on the way to the laundry room and he leaves his door open during the day. And I notice things. I'm a noticer.

At nighttime Brad goes inside and watches TV. His slanted glass window, a staple of 1950's built Santa Monica, is always cracked open and I can hear the sounds of old westerns or the news coming from his place below. It's somewhat comforting.

From time to time I'll hear Brad speaking with a woman outside of my window. I leave my windows open most all of the time because the ocean breeze is a large chunk of my rent and I intend to get my money's worth. But Brad and the woman, whom I've come to learn is his assigned nurse, speak curtly about what's ailing him. She asks him, more often than not, about his recent bowel movements. 

Brad is rather alert, all things considering. Every time I walk by and think he might be asleep, no matter the time of day, and no matter how quiet I think I am, he'll raise his head a tiny bit and half open his eyes, which are red and irritated and have a number of bumps and scabs around them.

'Hey there, Mr. Brad.' I''ll say.

'Hey Justin.' He'll say. 

That's our conversation most days. We've talked more in depth in the past, but that's usually where we get to now. I know that he used to be an architect and interior designer, among other things. He spoke to me one day about 'keeping things simple' and not 'wasting space or people's time.' Brad speaks quickly and with merit. He commands respect and I've always enjoyed our run-ins.

He sits within ear shot of my apartment every day of his life. Sometimes when I'm not busy with artwork, I like to shoot videos in my apartment. These videos cause me to say the same things over and over, take after take, and some of those things are repulsive and silly. I can only imagine what Brad actually thinks of me. 

My doorknob fell off the other week and I asked Brad what I should do. He's the handyman, still, and I didn't want to disrespect him by going over his head and taking care of it. He told me that the doorknob was, in fact, not broken, but could easily be fixed if I twisted it just so. The screws, he told me, fit into the notches still and it would be an easy fix. I told him I'd tried that and it didn't work. He told me that I wasn't doing it right. I began to speak again but caught myself. 

I was arguing with a 82 year old man about a doorknob and I decided to stop. I politely told him that I'd try again and then I proceeded in driving to HomeDepot to buy a new knob set. The set was ten dollars. I bought it and also some cacti for my patio and then came back home to fix my door.

Brad saw me in the morning and asked me if I replaced the doorknob with a new doorknob. I had to tell him the truth. I said yes. He sighed and looked to the sky.

To somewhere else.

May he rest in peace.