What I find difficult is the forced familiarity. I know things about my neighbors that strangers should not know about each other, things that should only be shared after a late-night Jacuzzi session with three or four mojitos.
It bothers me that, though I don’t know my neighbor’s names, I know their sexual habits. The guy above me must be an atheist because when he climaxes, instead of “Oh, God!” he shouts, “Oh, shit, oh, shit,” over and over until it sounds like an Irish surname. The newlyweds on my right are headboard bangers, and during sex Mrs. Banger calls out simple, but helpful instructions such as, “Faster, higher, harder,” until she sounds like an action movie trailer. The single girl on my left turns up her TV volume to drown out the high-pitched moaning on the nights her boyfriend sleeps over and the even higher pitched moaning on the nights he doesn’t. She usually uses re-runs of Little House of the Prairie. I hope she does it for the irony.
Though, frankly, I don’t know why she moans louder when flying solo, because the louder the moaning the better the birthday present. Or so I’ve been told.
From time to time I’ve spotted my neighbors, yet I’ve never actually met Mr. O’Shit, Mr. and Mrs. Banger and the lovely Miss Moaner. It’s odd to know people’s sex lives but not their names. Especially since we didn’t meet at a 1960s marijuana-infused frat party while dancing to the long version of Inna Godda Davita.
To make them real I wanted to know more about my neighbors, so I lingered around the mailboxes, pretending to sort my catalogs, while secretly trying to read the names on their discarded junk mail. But I’m pretty sure my upstairs neighbor is not called Current Resident.
Then I tried to introduce myself. It went like this: I say, “Hi, I’m Pam, your downstairs neighbor.” This is the part where he should say, “Hi, I’m Joe Blow,” but he doesn’t. So I say, “We must work different hours. I hardly ever see you.” At which point he says, “I have a girlfriend.”
“No, no,” I stammer. “I just thought, I mean we live so close. . . .” Geez. I didn’t want to date; I just wanted to stop thinking of him as Mr. O’Shit.
“I don’t plan on living here long,” he says flatly and walks away.
Similar scenarios played out with my other neighbors, who now think of me as the creepy woman in apartment 109. So, I guess my neighbors will remain the Bangers, the Moaners and Mr. O’Shit.
Well, that’s apartment living. But, I guess it doesn’t matter—because I won’t be living here long.