Ni Hao, Neighbor

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

New York City living can be defined by the apartment you live in and the office you work in. Repetition and consistency, although great, can also become mundane after you make the same walk, or subway ride, over and over again. 

My roommate and I have been living in a 2 bedroom apartment in the lower east side neighborhood of New York City and have loved every minute. From the soccer pitch across the street to the community we have the privilege of living in, our home provides us that peace of mind from a city that never sleeps.

Over the last 6 months, we have come to know our neighbor in passing; a small, always smiling Chinese grandma, who reminds me of my baba’s smile and fragility. Everyday, I come home from work to a welcoming face on our 4th floor walk-up. It’s always my neighbor getting in her steps by walking from one end of the hallway to the other, back and forth, one step after the other, over and over again.

In September of 2019 I got a knock on our door from a reporter and her team. They were asking if we’d seen our friendly neighbor as she had just been the victim of a Chinatown mugging a few days prior. “Oh no!” I thought to myself, “I hope she’s alright,” feeling for her and her family. While the reporter wrote down her number and asked me to phone them if/when she returned, I elected not to in fear of causing unnecessary stress after such a traumatic experience.

A few days later I returned home from work, arriving to the sound of 4th floor footsteps once again pacing back and forth. It brought a smile to my face to see her again; this time with battle wounds in the form of 4 missing teeth and some bruises. She smiled, wide as ever, and I waved and gave her a hug as she tried to explain what had happened. After a few hand signals and a big bright smile, I knew that she knew we were on the same page even though not a single word had been spoken.

I got home that day and couldn’t stop thinking about the recent events that had unfolded. How could an 85 year old grandma, who had just been mugged and robbed a few days prior, already be back to her daily routine? What could she be thinking about as she paced back and forth staring down at the checkered, black and white tiled floor?