There's a car parked near the shell of St. Vincent's Hospital that I often pass and stop to gaze upon. It is a wonder.
Battered and once-white, tagged by graffitists, the car is packed to the gills with newspapers, coffee cups, Coke bottles, and other assorted flotsam.
The backseat overflows. The passenger seat is crammed.
The dashboard is thick with newspaper stuffing. Only the driver's seat is empty, just enough space for the driver to climb inside and carefully move the vehicle from one spot to another, to avoid the sweeping machine and the ticket makers.
I've seen the Hoarder Car, as I think of it, many times, but I have never seen the driver. I imagine a man, though it could be a woman, heavyset and wildly bearded. I see him living alone in one of the townhouses along W. 12th or 13th Street, where he has dwelled since birth.
I imagine that the posh new neighbors complain about the peeling paint on his front door, and the rusted wrought-iron fence, and the unkempt garden. They hold block association meetings about the man, discussing ways to condemn his property and resign him to a home. Some neighbors stand up to say, "I've offered to pay for repairs and upkeep myself, but Old Bill won't let my contractors near the place."
"Old Bill," they call him, though he's always gone by William. When they see him emerge in the mornings to move his junk-filled car, their blood boils. One woman, a stay-at-home mom, makes it her business to stand sentinel by her window, always watching as Old Bill comes and goes. She complains to her nanny (her husband is always away in China making deals in oil futures) and whips herself into a raging frenzy that only half a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé can calm.
"One of these days," she says to the nanny, "Old Bill's going to be history."