St. Anthony, patron saint of lost souls.
He was that guy. The weird guy on the second floor of my apartment building. In his 50s or 60s, hard to tell, bent over, his arms always held oddly a few inches away from his body, like a pigeon about to take flight. Shuffling the hallway in dirty sweats, socks, flip-flops. I’d pass him on my way down five flights of stairs.  He’d be sitting on the stairs, drinking beer out of a round Tupperware container, smoking a cigarette. Damn, I’d think, and call the landlord, indignant. More “No Smoking” signs were hung, up high out of the reach of graffiti and angry pens. But no matter, every few days the smell of smoke wafted up the stairwell. I'd tell myself it was the price of having a rent-stabilized studio. I'd try to remember all of the great things about my place, my neighborhood. I soon stopped calling the landlord as annoyance faded into pity. 

Over the two-and-half years I've been living in my building, I started hearing rumors about the guy. He’d lived there for 33 years, enabled by rent control and a disability check. Once, he’d harassed a gay man who had lived in the building, leaving threatening Post-it notes on his front door. I decided upon a simple, yet self-protective modus operandi whenever I saw him: I said hi, half-smiled, and scurried away. 

We exchanged few words, and always random: once, he was reading a thick novel while he sat in usual his spot on the stairs, the Tupperware of beer close by. He looked up at me and said, “Did you know surgery was invented in the war? That’s right, on the field they had to learn how to operate on wounded soldiers.” “Really?” I said, “that makes sense.” Another time, I had my dog as well as my neighbor’s dog in tow. “They multiplied,” he said, expressionless. “Um, yeah!” I’d say, in that forced-cheerful tone, “Have a good one!” 

A few months ago, he posted in the lobby a meticulously hand-written list of items for sale. It went something like this:
            4 UNICYCLES good cond.
            1 TRUMPET
            1 OBOE
            2 CLARINETS
            3 RECORD PLAYERS
5 TEN SPEED BICYCLES need repair
Later, when someone—probably the cleaning crew--had taken it down, he reposted the list, with a note added on top: IF YOU TOUCH THIS YOU DESERVE TO DIE PIECE OF SHIT HAVE SOME RESPECT FOR PROPERTY ITS U.S. of A LAW CODE 11.89123.1. 

More recently, a few Dilbert cartoon clippings from 1994 were pasted to the elevator wall next to the buttons. I thought it might be his doing, though I can't be sure. It was as if someone was communicating in code. 

This past Tuesday, a neighbor I'm friendly with called me at work. The guy had died inside his apartment. No one had known he was missing until people noticed an awful smell. Tuesday morning, police and firemen and EMTs flooded our building. He had been dead for three, four days. ODd on heroin. The fellow who lives below him, a kid in his 20s, said blood seeped through the ceiling, for reasons no one's yet confirmed. The photo on his cell phone is out of a horror movie, red dripping down a wall. He was the first to call the super. Some neighbors hadn't known the dead man's name. A few folks who’ve been in the building for decades said he’d once been a teacher, accomplished jazz musician, a decent guy. One warm-hearted woman from my floor said he’d been trying to redeem himself in the past year, was funny and kind to her 4-year-old. Someone else said, maybe now he’s in a better place. 

His name was Mike.