When I was a little girl living on the Upper East Side we had a doorman. We were rich!
Since then, the shit has hit the fan and we went bankrupt. But back then my parents would tip him for the holidays and make small talk year round. Mostly to avoid awkward moments and to feel like they were good people.
I felt more like “Eloise,” the children's book character who grew up at the Plaza hotel playing with her doormen and living a very privileged life. When we left the building, I missed having that life and having a doorman.
My next encounter with one didn’t come until I was 22.
I was living in Murray Hill on 28th and Third Avenue above a restaurant called Noodles on 28, which I believe is now on 29th Street. Hmmm. Anyway, our doorman was William. He was a 40ish homeless guy who slept in our doorway. We referred to him as our doorman.
Whether he was laying in or around our door, he never really bothered anybody. We shared a few laughs--I'm not sure what about. He would just babble incoherently and I would giggle along with him. He usually made me smile.
I was late to my waitressing job a few times because William had fallen asleep right in front of the door and I couldn't get it open. I would be yelling his name and he would eventually move enough so I could get the door open a little and leap over him and get to the 6 train.
Once in awhile I would buy him his favorite vodka from the liquor store around the corner. Georgio vodka. It was the cheapest one the store had, but I think he liked it because it came in a plastic bottle and he could drink it until he fell over without the chance of it shattering.
The guys at the liquor store would scold me: "Is this for William?"
“Yes,” I would answer.
"You shouldn't be buying this stuff for him,” they said.
Let me explain: This wasn't a dude who was going to go back and get his GED and start a non-profit and teach others how to get off the streets. He was OFF the GRID. There was no rehab for this man who soiled himself standing up right on the sidewalk in front of our building (unless you caught him and yelled for him to walk further down the block to do it. He would usually crankily abide and walk a little further west to do his business). He was not a contender for "Trading Places" the remake, ok? So if a little vodka make him happy, by all means.
In the middle of January that year it occurred to me that I hadn't seen William in at least a week. I noticed because he was part of my daily life.
I asked a few other people in the building. They hadn't seen him either.
I went into the liquor store.
"Have you seen William?" I asked the guys.
“William died,” the owner replied.
My heart stopped. I couldn't believe it. I hadn't even lost a grandparent yet--this was my first loss. I cried a little bit and thought how there was no hope in the world.
I had a beer that night and poured a little out on his favorite spot to sleep on the curb. "Goodbye William," I thought, mourning my friend and my doorman.
A few months went by and I was walking across Washington Square Park rushing to my new job and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw William on a doorstep of a fancy building.
I felt sad, then I felt racist because I had confused some random black dude with him. While I was judging myself I got a closer look. IT WAS HIM.
I rushed over.
"William!" I said, "You're alive!"
He looked up at me having no idea who or what I was and mumbled something about Jews and started to giggle and I of course joined him.
I don't know why the liquor store guy told me that he died. But he hadn't. He just moved!
I miss having my doorman but it's nice to know that he didn't pass away.
He just got a nicer gig.
More from Amy Schumer:
NYC is the only place I feel completely at home with the possibility of a stranger peeing on me
Actress and comedian Amy Schumer has appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show, Last Comic Standing, and 30 Rock, and will soon appear on Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as au natural in the March issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. This is the first of her occasional musings here on NYC apartment life.