1. A person who lives next to or near another person. – Merriam-Webster1
2. The reason I spend most of my time daydreaming about thicker walls. – The Nut
I don’t have great luck with neighbors. In fact my luck with neighbors seems to be getting progressively worse with each passing year. If this trend continues, it’s very likely that by the time Nutty Hubby and I finally buy a house, we’ll end up on Serial Killer Lane in the High Decibel Dubstep district of Creepertown.
Even the house I grew up in had its issues. On the one side there was nice old Mrs. Deakes, who was always sweet to me and once invited me over to see a nest two robins had made in one of her hanging planters. But the Deakeses also had a 40 year old son who still lived at home with them and never really got around doing anything with his life. He was notable only for the fact that he had installed an especially piercing security alarm in his battered blue van, which he invariably managed to set off every time he came home at 3am and tried to lock the thing.
On the other side, we had the Woodcocks, whose property was a fetid jungle of untamed greenery, standing water, and paranoia. They owned nothing worth stealing, but I guess they were concerned that someone in the neighborhood might sneak into their yard and do some midnight pruning, so they had wound barbed wire through the snarling underbrush to trip up any Good Samaritan gardeners and reward their kind intentions with tetanus.
This was the same yard that our dog Penny used to make a beeline to to forage for crabapples whenever she staged one of her famous escape attempts. By some miracle she never got hurt on the wire.
My first apartment was where the real fun started. Below me, we had Abusive Boyfriend & Guest, who believed that all arguments of any importance should take place squarely between 3 and 4am. I called the cops on them twice, during two wee hours wars in which things got so heated that all I could think was this is the night Guest dies, I just know it.
She did not die, although Abusive Boyfriend did express his wish that she do so the night he tossed her and her things out on the front walk at 4:30am and told her to fuck off out of his life forever.
If I were a braver person back then, I would have called out to her and offered to let her hang out at my place until the buses were running or she could have someone pick her up. But Abusive Boyfriend was watching her as she gathered her scattered belongings, and I still had to share a building with him, so I didn’t want to make waves. I have no way of knowing if she would have taken me up on my offer, but I’ll always regret that I didn’t at least make the gesture.
Then there was my next door neighbor. I couldn’t decide if he was just a bit odd or a full-on psychopath. He was a quietly cheerful man, but there was something off about his constant pleasantness, like one day he might fall apart at the seams and you’d discover he was actually completely made up of spiders. Tim Burton’s Mister Rogers, coming to a theater near you.
He liked to watch some sort of gospel channel on TV in the evenings. He would clap his hands and sing along, out of time and out of tune. I used to laugh into a pillow at how horrible his voice was.
It was all fun and games until he brought out the creepy children.
I don’t know where he found the things. I don’t want to know. But one day I came home from work and nearly had a heart attack, because standing in the shadows by his door were two weathered, life-size, painted plaster statues of a young boy and girl.
They were facing the wall, leaning slightly forward so their foreheads were planted against the stucco, hands up near their faces. I think the artist intended for them to be counting down in a game of hide & seek, but they looked more like they were waiting for Father to get his belt.
I wanted to get to safety inside my apartment, but I also kind of didn’t want to take my eyes off them. I’ve seen Doctor Who. I know the risks.
I chanced it and bolted inside.
I had only just begun to get used to the statues when people began messing with them. Humor is a common response to fear, after all. I admit, the thought had crossed my mind as well, but I just really didn’t want to touch the things.
One day I saw them posed against the wall as usual, only all the way down at the far end of the hall. Another day I came home and they were lying facedown on the carpet, their little chipped plaster butts raised in the air like inchworms. The last time I saw them, the boy statue was lying on his back with the girl statue’s face placed strategically over his crotch.
I don’t know if Creepy Mister Rogers finally got the message or if someone snapped and took a sledgehammer to them in the parking lot, but they had disappeared for good by the following morning, and we could all move on with our lives.
In grad school I was assigned to a student flat with five guys who didn’t know what a dishcloth was and couldn’t have found the garbage bin even if it had a GPS tracker on it. I gained ten pounds that year from eating takeout so often, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make as long as it meant I didn’t have to actually touch any of the surfaces in the kitchen. At night, I would fall asleep to a lullaby of squeaky chipmunk sex noises as the guy in the next room boned his tiny toothpick of a girlfriend.
When I came back home, Nutty Hubby and I moved in together.
We have lived in our current building for nearly six years.
So far, we have shared it with two more abusive tenants, three separate upstairs neighbors with no furniture who smoked weed around the clock and played loud music well into the night with their speakers on the bare floor, a person who insists upon wedging all the fire doors in the building open with rocks and wadded up cardboard and doesn’t seem to understand the flaw in this practice, an old skinny hippie who locks himself out of his apartment every other week and burns enough artificially perfumed incense to make the entire floor smell like Grandma’s underwear drawer, a guy who I can only assume spends all his time tossing anvils around his living room, and a family whose two children stage tandem tantrums without fail every morning, with special encore performances on weekends.
Did I mention there was a murder in the building a month before we moved in?
I’d move, but I’m afraid to.
Today’s blog post was brought to you by the letter N, the number 76 dB, and the IsThereABowlingAlleyInMyCeiling? Challenge, AKA the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
1 “neighbor.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 16 April 2015.