For over a week now, the smoke detector in my neighbors’ apartment has been running out of juice. They live below us, so every thirty to forty-five seconds, a prevalent, high-pitched BEEP! echoes through our apartment and, more importantly, through my mind. Jake and I have taken to sleeping with the fan on in our bedroom at night. Otherwise, we would be unable to sleep, because let’s face it: once you notice the BEEP! you can’t un-notice the beep.
A normal person would change the battery, and for all I know, the older couple who lives below us could be normal—but they’re never here. At first we thought they were seasonal, but they miss every season, so that can’t be it. We’ve come to believe this mysterious older couple keeps the apartment as a comfort, because as they say in Moonstruck, “He thinks if he holds onto his money, he will never die.” Their vacancy is made known to us via the dying smoke detector and our hot floor in the summer, since they ostensibly never, ever turn on the air conditioning.
Their presence is no more comforting, however, when they do show up. As I said, they’re an older couple, and they’re Asian. They’re also short—very short—and maybe they don’t speak English. All I know is they seem to hate my guts. I am the evil, Amazon woman in the high-heeled shoes. They ignore me and run inside when I say, “Hello,” and I swear the wife once called me a “hussy.”
Okay, that’s not really true (about the “hussy,” at least), but that’s not the point. The point is: neighbors. If you actually take the time to watch your neighbors, Neighbors Are Strange. I work from home, and I live in an apartment complex. All I need is a broken leg and a wheel chair, and I’d be Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.
Take, for example, my next door neighbor. The first time I met him, I suspected him of being a serial killer. He’s middle-aged, really tall, and has shifty eyes. You heard me: shifty eyes. He’s a divorcee with two small children who love my dog. How convenient. Once, he left the fan on in his bathroom for an entire week, and I suspected a) he had fallen in the shower and was dead, bleeding all over the linoleum, OR b) he had murdered his children, left them in the bathtub, and skipped town. As it turned out, upon his return, he told me he was in “Oregon” visiting “family.” Uh-huh, sure.
Then, there’s the bachelor who lives across from the pool on the bottom floor. Very rarely does this man put on a shirt, and he never goes to work. He smokes about a million cigarettes a day and lives with a cat named “Nugget.” Possible drug dealer? I think so.
To the right of the pool, there’s a woman who constantly looks like she’s dressed to go clubbing in Scottsdale. It can be 8 AM, and there she is in bitch boots and a low-cut halter. Plus, I can’t tell who actually lives in her apartment. Every morning it’s like a mass ejection from a clown car. I swear there are at least six children who live with her. She’s the Old Woman in a Shoe, but she’s a young woman, and her shoe would be a stiletto heel.
There is furthermore a very sweet, friendly couple who call my dog “Wild Thing.” Strangely, the husband only owns one outfit: a gray t-shirt and blue jeans. I have never seen him wear anything else. Like an episode of The Simpsons, he is Homer, and I’ve imagined his closet, filled with rows and rows of carefully folded gray t-shirts and blue jeans, hanging in perfectly aligned rows of navy denim.
So it’s creepy enough that I spend so much time watching my neighbors, right? The creepiest part, though? I don’t know any of their names. What? Really? It’s true. Okay, so I do know my next-door neighbor’s name. (You know, the serial killer?) Other than that, I’m clueless. I doubt they know my name, but they know Ripley, the psycho puppy. They say hi to her all the time. I am merely her boring sidekick, which brings up an interesting question …
What on earth do my neighbors think of me???
I’m the girl who discusses asinine topics on her cell phone while out at the community pool. I’m the girl who talks to her dog as if the dog is another human being. I am the girl who probably sits at home eating bon-bons while my fiancé goes off to work at 4 AM to make money for me to spend! AH! That’s probably what they think of me!
Well, although the first two aspects of my image might be true, the third one is not, but how do you tell your neighbors, “Oh, I’m a writer,” without sounding like a snotty artiste? Furthermore, it would be really awkward to tell them, “I can’t get an office job, because then, I would miss out on all the weird stuff you do on your porch.” Maybe I’ll learn how to whistle the Mr. Rogers theme song. With any luck, my neighbors will then suspect me of being a serial killer (because whistling is peculiar), and hey, won’t that be cool?