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Shut-in

Memories for company on Grand Street.

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Look at all my Bernie’s clocks,” Claire Price says. There are clocks Bernie placed in the living room, in the bedroom, and in the far room by the window of her apartment on the fourth floor of the Hillman houses, F building, at the far-east end of Grand Street. Her space is just one dark cell of thousands in the towering co-ops that make up the last remnants of the old Yiddish Lower East Side.

Claire Price is 84, a retired teacher, and since the storm hit she can’t ignore all her Bernie’s clocks. Like her neighbors, she’s had no electricity or water. She can’t walk well enough to leave the building and has been trapped with her clocks.

Bernie Price worked as a serviceman in the basements of Stuy Town, repairing the big machines like boilers. Hurricane Sandy reminds Claire of Bernie because he was so handy and there’s a lot that needs fixing after a storm like this one. “He could fix anything,” Claire says.

Anything except his sickness. Bernie passed away from leukemia ten years ago.

“Ding-dong! … Avon calling,” Heidi Rosenbach says, opening the apartment door. Heidi is a neighbor from the sixth floor. She’s come down with her husband to check on Claire. The husband sits on the couch.

“Oh, Mameleh, where’ve you been?” Claire says to Heidi.

“I was just here, what do you mean where I’ve been?”

“You want some eggs, Mameleh? I’m making some eggs.

They brought me up two eggs.”

“You know I don’t eat eggs.”

“Well, take something. Take some tomato sauce. I have some tomato sauce.”

“What am I going to do with tomato sauce? Where am I going to keep it? I have no refrigerator, remember?”

Claire sits down at the table. There’s rugelah and challah set out.

“When are they gonna deliver the papers?” Claire asks. “I’ve been looking out the window all day, and I saw an ambulance come to get somebody. I want to know who it is.”

With everything to worry about, the stairs and lights and water, Heidi is worried about the Sabbath. How would they get food and prepare?

“I heard Sheldon is getting us meals from FEMA,” Heidi says. Sheldon is Shelly Silver, the longtime Democratic Assembly leader.

Claire doubted any meal from FEMA would be kosher.

Heidi grabbed her flashlight and looked at her husband.

“C’mon, toots,” she said, and they both disappeared back into the darkness of the hallway.

It was later now, the apartment getting darker. Wearing a purple nightgown, Claire talked about her children on Long Island and in Michigan, and how badly they wanted her to live with them. She then went through the reasons she didn’t want to go—even with the storm. Why be a burden?

“My days are going,” she said and walked into the far room and sat by the window and looked down again to the street. By the window, there was light in the room. Near the window was a photo of herself and Bernie. He was in the war when the photo was taken. She curled her hair with hot irons back then. Near the photo were more of his clocks. They haven’t kept time for years.

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