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A letter to my upstairs neighbor


I’m sorry.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Dodging each other in the parking lot, crossing through the grass to avoid close proximity to one another, constantly staring at something ever so intently on the ground so eye contact never occurs.

Enough.

You seem like a decent guy. I saw you with your daughter the other day. I feel like you said hi to my dad one time he was in town. We’ve both lived next to each other for a year now without any issues. So you might be feeling like what I did was uncalled for and maybe it was. Maybe I should have just called the complex and let them deal with it.

But really, can we just be real about this? If I can Shazam your music from my dining room, I think I have the right to ask you to turn it down. And not because I don’t like the music from the decade that saw the end of the Cold War and the beginning of AIDS. I just don’t feel like listening to the artist formerly known as Prince at 8 a.m. on a weekend.

See, even he thinks it’s too loud.

And to be honest, it wasn’t all you. You were really just the straw breaking the camel’s back like a freight train would break tracks made out of glass.

Sleep is a very crucial thing for me. It has been ever since I lost the ability to stay awake for days at a time like when I was a foolish girl in college wasting precious sleep time by watching marathons of Arrested Development and texting my friends about how much I hated my new roommate because she only cleaned the apartment when she was drunk. I know, it didn’t make any sense to me either.

I’m not saying I need eight hours of sleep every night, but waking up early in an unnatural manner or without purpose just does something to me. Almost to the point of physical pain.

Recently, I was listening to a Radiolab podcast where they talked about measuring pain. It’s not an easy thing to explain to someone else–the pain you’re feeling. One woman they interviewed said she put it in terms of what she would do or trade to have the pain go away. Shortening her life span to make it stop was a bargain she would have taken at the time.

And I know you don’t know me, but just imagine for a second what could compel me to put on pants (yet another thing I hate doing), venture out into the horribly blinding brightness of the sun, hike up the tower of stairs to your apartment, and ask you to please relieve me of the pain I was in. If you think about it like that, it makes total sense and you shouldn’t hate me anymore.

But I don’t know if you will ever know.

Hopefully, I can make you muffins and a mix CD of the best of the 80s and we can put this behind us.

Until then, just know, it wasn’t you. It was the pain.

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Why I always talk to strangers even though my parents taught me not to


He was sitting in a red, fold out chair. The kind you see parents take to school fields so they can sit and watch their kids play sports. It looked just like the one I have in my room. An American flag was draped down the wall behind him. It was as long as the green door to his apartment is tall. He had on a faded blue baseball cap and held a natty light in his hand. I almost walked passed him but remembered seeing him out of the corner of my eye the first time I walked around the complex.

He looked comfortable. The way you look when you’re in your usual spot. The giant flag didn’t shock me so much. The number of plants he had around was sort of strange. Maybe he liked to grow things. Maybe his roommate potted them.

“Say, uh, what kinda dog is that?” he said in a scratchy, typical Texan drawl.

Who could resist? I knew he was a stranger, but I sized him up quickly and figured I could take the old man if he tried anything funny. And by funny I mean one of the million scenarios my parents decided would be my possible kidnapping or murder by a stranger.

“He’s a terrier mix,” I said.

“Huh, well he’s gotta be mixed with something to have a tail like that,” he said, chuckling.

I should have told him he was half pig. My dog is kinda fat with pink, triangle ears and a curly tail. Orbison went up to him and let the man pet him. He wagged his tail, too. I think Orbison has a good judge of character.

Usually, I ask everyone their name and try to sneak a photo. I’m still kicking myself for not doing it. I guess sometimes I feel like I’m bothering people because I ask so many questions. But as I told the man to have a good night and walked away I thought, “Maybe he was just looking for someone to talk to.”

Just like I do some nights.

I’ve walked around this complex enough to know he isn’t the only one. Plenty of people sit on their porch or patio on plastic chairs, benches or stairs. They watch everyone go by. Occasionally waving at a neighbor they’ve gotten to know.

If I could meet someone new everyday, it would be my favorite part of the day. I love hearing new stories and meeting new characters. Everyone has something to show you and I’m continually fascinated by how different each person is or what you could end up having in common with someone you thought was completely different from you. This man, who has a huge flag displayed on his apartment wall, drinks half water/half beer and is probably more than twice my age, is just like me tonight.

We sit in our respective spots and admire a pig dog.

I do hope that man wasn’t lonely. And that he just likes to sit on his porch sometimes and enjoy a beer like my dad does occasionally.

But the next time I see him, I’ll certainly ask his name. Maybe even where he got his plants or that enormous flag.

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