These stories were about five of the residents who graced the Battery Park Hotel. Their stories came to me in the form of a badly burned diary, author unknown.
I found it several yards from the rubble, as if it had been thrown from a window, in an effort to save their stories, as it was obvious their lives would not be saved. Most of the pages had been scorched and turned into ash, but the middle pages survived.
As I began to read, I pictured each one of the characters, so deftly portrayed in the diary. I wondered if perhaps I was invading someone’s most intimate thoughts, but having been the only thing that survived the fire, I assured myself that it was meant for me to find it.
I imagine Eloise, with her Raven colored hair and flighty mannerisms, delighting all the men with her feminine wiles. I imagine those men, gazing in shock and awe at her exposed bosom and I can almost hear her teasing laughter when she asked if they could see a spider. She was a high-spirited woman who hated the word “widow,” and to me, it made sense.
I imagine Irene, with her bright pink outfit and matching shoes. I wonder if, knowing that she wasn’t going to make it out alive, she donned that outfit because it made her feel pretty. I wonder if she gazed out the window and took one last look at the house she had shared with her late husband for so many years. I wonder if she cried for her children. I wonder what her last thoughts were before she leaped off the top of the building.
I wonder about Ray Dean. After having spent a lifetime of deceitful dealings, did he feel that maybe his debt had not been satisfied and atonement was still outstanding? I wonder if he wished, in his final hours, that he had gotten to know the other residents of the Battery Park Hotel. I wonder if he thought about his mama and papa. I wonder if his last thoughts were of Isobel.
I picture Otis, complete with his rollator. He spent his youth being considered a bad luck omen. Was he indeed a “Jonah?” Was he the one who brought bad luck to the Battery Park Hotel? I’d like to think that he was a good and decent man who, despite his clumsiness and unfortunate nickname, lived a good and decent life. I hoped that he died a quick death and didn’t have time to think that he was the cause of the fire.
I think of Agnes. She was someone who endured so much pain. When she thought she had finally found safety, just as she feared, it was snatched away from her. I wonder if she died with the lights off and the blinds closed, thinking that she would be safe? When she knew she was going to die, I wonder. Did she say a prayer, or did she curse God for taking what was left of her life…the life she really never got to live?
These people’s lives ended and they all had a story to tell, but they can’t tell them now. People should be remembered, no matter how insignificant they feel, or are made to feel. Each one of them was important. Some were flighty, some were mysterious, some were escaping unfortunate pasts, some were looking for freedom, some were looking for validation, and some were trying to outrun that “last dance.” Some of them will never be known. Their stories are in the burned, brittle pages of a castaway diary.
These five people lived and loved and laughed and cried. They left a mark, even if no one cares, but who will tell their story?