"Those were hard things for me to come by, and I offer them to you for what they may be worth." - Toby Wolff

Monday, January 16, 2012

Living It

It's a little scary here. There are six people that like to sit and smoke on the steps leading to my apartment. They use "fuck" and "shit" and "mother fucker" as if they were "and", "the" and "um". I like profanity in it's place. But the children are small and it's almost as if the parental vocabulary is so truncated that they've lost their choices. They are young and they are loud and they think nothing of letting their children run back and forth and back and forth and shake the windowswallsdoorsfloorglass. They smoke tobacco and herbs, and their beers litter the lawn while they BBQ in the common area between the three wings. They roll down the windows of their cars and MAKE me listen to their rap music at full volume.

I am afraid, and it makes me hibernate. I've never been a particularly fearful person, but suddenly I am as unsure of others as I am of myself. This is no time to hide. I hide well. Why practice that more?

I went out on the small balcony to fill a small pot with soil. I have seeds from Marion that I am suppose to plant in Spring. (It is 80 degrees. Does that constitute Spring? I don't know when to plant. Help me Marion.) Four men come out onto the adjacent balcony...it is their women littering my stairway. BE BRAVE BE BRAVE BE BRAVE. Just like a kidnapped victim who tries to let the captor know they have a name, they are a person, they have children.

"Who actually lives in this apartment?" I ask over the balcony.

A man's smile fades. He thinks I am going to lecture, or critique, or judge, or complain. I can tell. I am learning to read body language better than words.

"I do" he says.

"My name is Annie. Nice to meet you" I say, holding out my hand. He shakes it. His name is Greg. He is smiling broadly now and missing a tooth.

I walk out front onto the steps. A woman spans the entire width of my stairway. If she did not move, I would not be able to get from my apartment to my car.

"Which of you actually lives in this apartment?" I ask again.

"I do" smiles a woman.

"I'm Annie. I just met your husband Gary."

"Greg" she says. I tell her my memory sucks. That I have a hard time listening. I am rarely present. She moves for me. She smiles. She asks me if I know her daughter. I do...she was the first person to say hello here. She is seven, likes flowers and the color pink.

The guys are swearing like sailors on the balcony. I cannot drown it out. Their music is not to my liking. But...I am less afraid than when we were all nameless.

I want them to be quiet.
I have no control.
It's hard for me.


  1. We cannot control the world around us and more than a floating leaf can control the flow of the stream. That's why it's best to learn to go with the flow. I enjoyed this little vignette, Annie.

  2. Reaching out is hard and scary. But most people will respond to an outstretched hand. It's hard to be afraid of a person with a name. You are braver than I would be. I HATE it when others expect you to like their music as they infringe upon your listening space. But it's not malevolent. It's just ignorance. And those that use such vulgarities with abandon probably don't even realize they're doing it.

  3. Annie,
    be brave..."fuck" and "motherfucker" are lyrics to them...they were to me too at one time....everyone has that phase in life...when you want to blurt even the nastiest things out the moment they pass your head...they will learn of better ways.....as you have...listen to your own music


  4. It's hard to be around other people sometimes, but I think you did the right thing, introducing yourself.

  5. @ Eric - So true. I have to let go of the things I can't control or else I just keep banging my head against the wall.

    @ Yvonne - That's a good thing to remember...not to assume malevolence.

    @ Manik - It's nice to hear your younger perspective. One of them did stop me last night and we had a non-defensive discussion about language, etc. He is 26 and not the loudest of the bunch. After talking to him, I think his vocab has potential. That song was mournful and yet soothing. I loved that movie, but it's been a LONG time since I've seen it.

    @ Matthew - Someone has to reach out. Might as well be me. I'm trying to work up the nerve to ask them not to smoke right outside my front door. Is that ignorance too? I thought everyone knew the 20 foot rule. It's posted everywhere. I know...you're rolling your eyes, staring at me from your avatar with that cigarette :/

  6. Introducing yourself was the right thing to do. However, in the long run, we are programmed to want to be with 'People Like Us." (PLU).

    I understand that their cussing may be music to them, or within whatever they perceive their version of Society to be, but, it trespasses on my perception of Society.



  7. You need to be safe, feel safe. I'm impressed you stepped out and made a preemptive jesture.
    Use your words, they are your strength.

  8. The description of the neighbors doesn’t sound very good. Are there other options to staying there? I see signs in this writing of sympathy, where thoughts should be of taking good care of yourself.

  9. You shouldn't be afraid to enter and leave your home. That's sad. Maybe you should get a friend or family member and introduce yourself. Something needs to be done.

  10. Ah, I'm glad you introduced yourself. Every new situation, neighborhood, person that comes through your life is the opportunity to learn. I remember when I bought my house and my next door neighbor was cracking up about how quickly I got to know everyone on our street, when she had been there 2 years and knew no one. If they know your name, they will look out for you, and vice versa. The cloak of anonymity is not necessarily a safe one, and the more we get to know people we might not have ordinarily known, the more beautiful of a story our own life is - what a gift you have in living somewhere so completely new! We all benefit each other by creating these relationships, big and small :)

    And hey, when it's time for you to BBQ, you know you can play your own music and that's just fine. That's the nice thing about living in communities like this. And hey, it takes a village not just for kids, but for the adults in it as well. People might be timid at first, but it's obvious your smile and warmth will be winning folks over. I always recommend homemade cookies too :)

  11. It's interesting the different perspectives present in the comments. What we fear and how heavily we should weight the fear has much to do with our personal history.

    @ Shoes - Oh gosh...living with a bunch of PLM (people like me)would be a highly dysfunctional place! But perhaps they all are.

    @ Rabbit - I have pepper spray and a really dusty brown belt. You're right, the words work best.

    @ Anthony and Jax - I'm being careful. If I get these people on my side, it will make it easier.

    @ EcoGrrl - My music? Wonder how that'll go over? You are right though, it is an education and an opportunity to learn. Cookies sound like a good idea.

  12. Sounds to me like you're planting seeds already.

    Change scares me Annie. But you seem strong and well-equipped to deal with it.

  13. sounds like a good story you got there. you are dealing with issues of fear, the greatest of the dragons. i believe you are right to become, or attempt to become a part of their world before seeking change. keep us posted please.

  14. And here I thought I'd taught you to cuss!! Try mirroring it back at them. "How the fuck you doing, muthafucka'?" No, really, I'm just kidding. My Mama (from whom I learned to cuss like a sailor) told me yesterday that I cuss too much. I said, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," and we left it at that. LOL! You are a brave soul, Annie. Those people are lucky to have you as a neighbor.

    I think a branch would be great for those Moonflowers to climb. Or some string duct-taped from your wall to the plant. That's what Ray would do. LOL! God bless duct tape!! Sending you love & hugs, my Annie. xoxo

  15. everything is less scary when we dare to touch it, or if and when it touches us. even the scary. you did good, annie. real good.

    i almost said, i wish you had a private and comfortable place, but perhaps there is something here you need to learn. who knows. but you're learning. as andreas says, you're already planting seeds.


  16. You're a good person, Annie, standing up to your fear and trying to see some good in people.

    1. I too am having problems with my neighbors, Annie. I think introducing yourself is a good start... so many people don't actually think of how what they do or say (or how loud they are) affects other people, until they make friends with them.

      You have the right to feel safe, and to fight for what little control you do have. It's all in the outlining of what you can do - what you have control over - and what you don't that will bring you peace.

  17. I can understand your feelings, and I would have them too. I wish you could move.

  18. Apartment dwelling can be quite the melting pot experience. I lived next to some pretty unique characters (who probably thought I was the strange one).

    I always figured the Golden Rule applied, and I treated them as I wanted to be treated. My kids and I never had any neighbor problems that couldn't be talked through. I'd politely ask if they could turn down the music after 10pm (which was already in the lease).

  19. Ah, neighbors. I've lived with those folks, too. All you can do is all you can do. Be nice because being otherwise only begets extra-colorful swearing and louder music.

    It's not the music you should be concerned with, it's the feeling safe. Putting a face on them and on you is a great start, because now you become animate, no longer a piece of the apartment complex same as the stairwell.

    I sold my last house in a bit of a rush because of my old neighbors. It got so bad that when I called out the cops that last time, I said this: It's either you make this shit stop, or I do. Your next call out you'll need backup.

    They killed my dog, see, and were threatening my daughter and harassing her on the bus.

    Yes, I was living in the freaking ghetto, thinking I was saving money by owning a small, inexpensive home. Never again!

    Anyway. Be safe and be nice.

    - Eric

  20. All people are scary. All of them, you, me, us, them. The loud music and tatts, the beer swilling, swearing and shouting, the kids running hither and thither using language that would make my mothers' hair stand on end. They're just the everyday stuff of living but they take a lot of getting used to. Erin is right, touching and naming is a great way to break down the walls that we hide our fear behind.

    We know that most people are "all right" whatever that means. To me that means that most people have little or no interest in us. So they're not that keen to hurt or harm us, and perhaps not that bothered about making friends either. That's OK though, time and familiarity work wonders in this regard.

    Not sure why this post popped to the top of my Reader Annie, I guess it knows about my shonky memory and tries to help out :) Big hug xx Jos


Thank you for listening.