:: Norma Wikler Memorial ::
...:: anonymous : a neighbor of norma's at the olcott hotel remembers ::...
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Her voice was as full of life as any. I never dreamed of the pain that it disguised so well.
I was one of Norma's neighbors at The Olcott Hotel in New York. I moved here years before she did, and still live here. I never met Norma -- never even saw her. Although she lived just a few feet from me for a year or more, I only remember catching a glimpse of her heel as she stepped into her apartment, a flash of the back of her coat as she boarded the elevator, the blur of her face as she closed the door after accepting a delivery.
Although we never spoke a single word to one another, I have vivid memories of Norma's voice: brisk, resonant, optimistic. She had many visitors, whom she always greeted enthusiastically and with much fanfare (sometimes even waking me up in the morning). She held many breakfast and lunch meetings at her apartment, which her guests seemed to relish attending every bit as much as she enjoyed hosting. And behind her door, I often heard Norma on the phone, talking up a storm with whomever...as I waited for the elevator, just a few carpeted feet away.
One day, our housekeeper told me that Norma had left her a $100 tip. I was stunned; she was ecstatic. I said something about how generous that was, and our housekeeper agreed, remarking what "a lovely, thoughtful person" Norma was.
Sometime in mid-2002, the laughter and the breakfast meetings and the phone calls stopped. I asked our housekeeper if Norma had moved out, as people often do here, since it's a residential hotel. She looked past me, then said quietly, "You don't know?"
Tonight, as I sat in a fluorescent-lit room in the penthouse level of The Olcott -- I was attending a Tenants' Association meeting because the hotel was recently sold and we all face buyouts, rent increases, or worse -- one of the leaders of the meeting asked how many people present were residents. Everyone raised their hand. Then he asked how many of us had email addresses. Nearly everyone raised their hand. "Are there any lawyers present?" was his final question.
I know there would have been at least one hand raised if Norma were there. And I probably would have finally seen her face and perhaps introduced myself. But there were no hands raised. Then someone chuckled, "No one will admit to being one!"
And then the meeting continued.