He Was Starting Life Over. Then The Pandemic Struck.

The Infinity hasn’t moved.

For weeks it’s been parked in the same spot, its sideview mirror turned in. Ed always turned in the mirror so that passing cars couldn’t sideswipe it like I once did.

I haven’t seen Ed in weeks, not since lockdown began. I’ve seen his partner Eve, walking their pit bull Boss in the mornings. And I’ve seen an unknown heavily-tattooed man walking Boss in the afternoons and evenings. I’m not a nosy body. I write all day near a window and distract myself by watching my neighbors come and go. Ed was one of those people.

His tough gangsta bit scared me at first: the baggy low-hung jeans, the oversized hoodie that he pulled down over his smoldering eyes, the heavy Bronx accent, and dark tattoos. He certainly wasn’t someone I’d figure for an Infinity hatchback, a suburban family car. But Ed came with a lot of surprises.

The day I sideswiped his mirror and left an apology note with my house and phone number on his windshield, he rang my bell and in his quiet, raspy voice he said he felt badly that I’d wasted a minute worrying. That’s how we met.

Ed seemed to have taken some wrong turns in his life. Being a public health writer who has interviewed many formerly incarcerated men and recovering addicts, I sensed he’d done time. He never said as much. What he did say was that he was earning his Associate’s degree in psychology, planned to transfer to a four-year bachelor’s program, and ultimately attend graduate school so that he could become a forensic psychologist and work with youth offenders. He said he was trying to make up for mistakes he’d made when he was young. I drew my own conclusions from there.

We weren’t friends. Our relationship wasn’t reciprocal. He never asked for my story, which was fine with me. But he talked and I listened. Maybe because he was young enough to be my son but had likely never enjoyed any of the advantages my son had had, my heart opened to him. When he mentioned that writing his papers was a struggle, I offered to read them over. The smile he gave made me wonder if anyone had ever done anything nice for him.

The last time I saw Ed, he was heading to his first overnight shift at a nearby youth detention center. The job was a paid internship that he’d landed through the four-year university that had accepted him into its psychology bachelor’s program. He was over the moon about school and the internship. “I’m going to make something of my life,” he told me. He was uncomfortable, though, about leaving Eve alone at night. “Thank God for Boss,” he said.

Ed knew that the risk of contracting coronavirus was high at the center, as it is in prisons and shelters, where living quarters are tight and social distancing is impossible. He assured me that he would have all the necessary personal protective equipment and seemed touched by my concern, just as I was by his. “You being safe?” he asked, before driving off.

Since then, I’ve seen Eve only a couple of times; once heavyset, she’s grown noticeably thin. The man who’s been walking Boss keeps parking his truck behind Ed’s grey Infinity, right where Eve used to park her leased Mazda. Her car has been gone for as long as Ed’s has been idle.

Whenever I pass their apartment, I stare at the spot where Ed used to stand and smoke, and I recall how proudly he announced that he’d quit. I worry that his smoker’s lungs were too damaged to fend off the virus that has killed more than 100,000 people in the United States. I worry that he’s on a ventilator, or gone. I worry that Eve never got to say good-bye.

I won’t knock on her door. I don’t want to intrude. I’ll just keep hoping that I run into her, so that I can ask, just the way I keep hoping that I’ll run into Ed.

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