Corvette Man • 18 August 2007

I’ve lived above Corvette Man for five years. Never so much as a moment of eye contact in that time. Sally next door says she’s shared words with him five times in the 30 years they’ve both lived here.

All that’s really to be known about him is the hunch of shoulders in his grey 70s-era velour sweatsuit as he secrets inside grocery bags from the trashy Vons up on Santa Monica Boulevard—Miller Beer, Stovetop stuffing, Cheerios. More revealing: his love for a perfect white, almost never driven, waxed by hand on occasional Saturdays. Vintage and mint down to the tires. He called it Betsey.

It’s been an honor parking near something so exalted and gleaming.

Two Sundays ago, sitting in my black Honda as the electronic gate chugged open, I shrugged off a buyer on Corvette Man’s behalf. Entitled like the biggest property-owner in some small town, paunchy, used to taking shiny white things and used to taking up space: he pulled his Mercedes into the no-parking spot in front of the gate, got out importantly, pointed at the thing he wanted, and raised his voice to ask me as the gate opened between us:

“Who owns that Corvette and how much is he going to want for it?”

The assumed he. I shook my head and smiled to think of Corvette Man’s loyalty. As if his car could be bought, no matter how poor he gets. It’s not a commodity, not priceable. It’s the only person in his life.

What I didn’t realize was that, just then, Corvette Man was dying.

I wanted to think he would be survived by his car, but now that I’m back from New York, it’s disappeared with the rest of him. The building manager, an alone old Australian woman who populates her life with trash, is selling off the contents of his apartment in a garage sale today.

Katie splits her time between invading residents’ privacy (including mine, when she walked right on in one recent sweaty afternoon as I was writing my dissertation naked), and trawling garage sales for trash. Because she can barely walk let alone carry things heavier than the keys to our respective apartments, she keeps a shopping cart she stole from the Vons to transport her treasures around the building. Late at night we all hear her rattling through the courtyard, propping herself up behind a cartful of greasy old Tupperware, castoff clothing, godknows what.

I’m waiting to hear the cart rattle now, as Katie transports Corvette Man’s things out to the curb.

I think she plans on pocketing the money from the sale. Sally, next door, says the whole thing makes her afraid to die on Katie’s watch.

I hope the Corvette is somewhere safe.