One of the uncontrollable things about apartment life is your neighbors. Over the years I’ve had some good ones, and of course a couple I could’ve done without. Either way, neighbors are a lot like family members: you don’t get to choose them, and no matter what you do they’re always underfoot.
I live in a studio apartment, where I’m buttonholed between a couple and a single woman. The couple are around my age, very nice, and on the whole very quiet. The only exception to the noise is on Sundays when the Seahawks play football. Once the game begin I’m in for a good four-hours of blood-curdling yelling, hoarse screaming and couch-pounding play-by-play analysis. (Of late there’s also been a good amount of mournful silence, which just goes to show that repeating a Super Bowl title is near-to-impossible.) But I can’t really complain: their zeal is infectious, and I’m able to stay abreast of the game without having to purchase a TV.
On the other side lives a woman who, to make recourse to the family metaphor above, would be the drunk, philandering, racist uncle you desperately wished wasn’t part of your genetic history. She’s the sort of person whose very existence makes a strong case for euthanasia. I don’t generally stay up nights wishing ill on people, but if I did she’d be at the top of my list, right up there alongside Mitch McConnell and Rush Limbaugh.
I would not wish her ill simply because her apartment is bigger and receives more light than mine (though if there were an unfortunate accident that rendered her incapable of inhabiting said apartment…, presumably I’d be first in line). But if I were to wish her ill it would be because on the few times we’ve interacted she’s proven to be a nasty, noisy, self-absorbed, patchouli-wearing pseudo-hippie who can’t return a Hello when she crosses my path and whose genetic materials I deem unwelcome in the future of humanity. To wit:
The other night I was awoken at 2:30 in the morning by a noisy scraping sound along the wall I share with her. The building we live in is old and the walls are made of plaster-and-lath, which means that if you talk at a volume above a whisper everyone in the building can hear you. The carpet in her apartment was recently pulled up, and apparently she’d decided to use this particular hour to pull any remaining nails and sand the floor clean.
I went next door and knocked. Because it was obviously me knocking and she loathes human confrontation ((She likes to leave passive-aggressive notes on my door to complain about the volume of my music, yet another reason I despise her, my logic here being, 1: it’s not actually that loud so get over it, 2: it’s better than the shitty recorder music you play [sub-point 2a: practice clearly does not make perfect, for she sucked at her recorder when I moved in and in over half a year has shown exactly zero progress], and 3: grow a pair and talk to me face-to-face like an adult. The latter lines of failing as an adult lead to manifold other considerations, the most terrifying and frustrating being that her political vote carries the exact same weight as mine…)) she did not open the door. I asked if she could please stop whatever she was doing, and she replied—honest to god this is verbatim—”Oh, I didn’t realize anyone was home.” I fumbled for a constructive response. Eventually I assured her that I was, in fact, solidly home, undeniably awake, and also quite annoyed.
I could cite pages worth of her brutishness, but I’ve sworn not to become the sort of person who starts some absurd neighbor-war. The first reason is that, as the history of the Middle East demonstrates, such confrontations are unending sucks on valuable resources, and rarely is there a clear-cut winner. Additionally, once I outsmarted this woman (which seriously couldn’t take more than a week of intentional efforts, and that’s not because I’m especially gifted—she’s simply set the bar very, very low), I would have to live with the knowledge that I stooped to her level, an outcome I think would be more belittling than simply living beside her.
Having stated the above, in a spirit of total honesty I feel it’s important to acknowledge that I come from a family inclined to such undertakings. Seemingly there is a genetic pull toward these things as one of my uncles once got into a fist-fight with his neighbor in a debate over property lines (No, this isn’t the drunk, racist, philandering one alluded to above; instead, this is the proudly-professing Christian one… In both cases I cringe to acknowledge the relationship), and my grandfather used to get into arguments with his neighbors over the roots of trees and locations of fences and who was mowing which corner of whose lawns, etc. All I recall he ever demonstrated by doing so was a strong ability to obsessively and pettily perseverate over minutiae. With my life I am hoping for bigger, although, that said, I will end with one final story so you can see what sort of person I’m living beside.
For the past month this woman haÂ stored an old, small, crappy television in the hallway outside her apartment. This morning when I went down to get the mail it was on the front porch of the building. Affixed to the TV was a handwritten note that read, “Donation for the blind.”