Monday, May 20, 2019

Deputy Mayor of Hell’s Kitchen


A small leather case. Corners worn. Nestled inside is a small silver badge that reads: R. Cohen, Deputy Mayor of Hell’s Kitchen.


It really is the small things that cut the deepest. For the last few days I have been decluttering and cleaning as I ready the house for sale. It’s a hard decision to leave the home Rob, Devon and I made here for nearly twenty years. But it’s time. It’s hard to say how I know that to be true, but I do.

Rob left me with so much to get rid of, to organize, and to pack. I had forgotten the badge and found it early this morning. I don’t remember the whole story, but on W. 36th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues, Rob’s family’s business was located. The business passed from his grandfather to his father and eventually to him.

Rob grew up knowing all the locals in that neighborhood. Frank McGinnity, who lost a foot to diabetes, dubbed himself the Mayor of Hell’s Kitchen twenty years before the start of gentrification would change that place from working class poor Irish to young urban professional. By the time that change was happening, Rob had sold the building to a Gay Church and left the family business to teach. He was forty.

One afternoon, when Rob was in his early 20s,  McGinnity called him over to the stoop where Frank sat most afternoons and presented him with the badge. I’d like to tell you why, but I don’t remember that part of the story. What I do remember was that this small trinket was something my husband held on to through all his moves and ours. This ridiculous, undersized badge pleased him as did the stories of the neighborhood McGinnity would tell.


Loss attaches itself to the things we love as if these trinkets might somehow embody the spirit of those gone. It finds expression in small objects that are easily lost and found on too-beautiful Sunday mornings when least expected.

More than three years have passed since Rob died. This morning I tucked away the badge, thinking it might be something Devon could want and feeling it gone from my hands, I broke down and cried.

Oddly, it was as if I was learning that Rob would never be coming back again.