I like my new flat. I like my new neighbourhood. I’m right above a busy street: at night, the traffic’s soothing, a low rush to send me to sleep. In the morning, it’s all horns and road rage, down there. I wake up without my alarm. There’s a bubble tea shop downstairs, and a café, and a market—and the roof across the street has at least one pair of gulls nesting on it. That last might not seem like a bonus, but I like gulls. My old place had gulls. Every spring, they tried to make more gulls. Most of the time, the landlord broke up their nests before anything hatched—but one year, he forgot. One year, there were minigulls. I watched them learn to fly. It was brilliant.
One thing, though—one thing I’ve been missing, since I moved here—one thing, besides the view of the water: my annoying neighbours. My old building was full of them. There was Pity Sex Guy, Protected Carrots Lady, Emphysema Dude (later replaced by That Fighty Couple)—there was Nazi Music Guy, with his dreadful Nazi boombox; there was that goose that kept landing on my balcony and honking all day long—and, of course, there was Ilya Nikolayich Dolgonosov, the bird-kicking, landlord-haranguing, fist-shaking busybody, who may or may not have stolen my hat.
The walls were so thin, back there—so thin I could hear my neighbours cooking breakfast. Smell them, too, if there was bacon on the go, or anything fried. I knew all about their personal lives. I knew who had cancer, and who just got dumped. I knew who was pretending to be Christian to make friends. I knew exactly who wouldn’t stop burping while I was trying to read.
I’m sure I annoyed my neighbours as much as they annoyed me. I like to sing Vitti ‘na Crozza in the shower (six verses, and it’s time to rinse). They’d have heard that, no question, every morning at five. C’è nu giardinu ammenzu di lu mari…tuttu ‘ntssutu d’aranci e ciuri…every damn day, the same thing. One time, I got a note on my door: “you don’t have to yell ATCHOO! every time you sneeze. Really, you don’t!”—except, I do. Really, I do.
Here, though—it’s not like that, here. This is a new concrete building: thick walls. I was starting to think there’d be no-one, nobody to grouse about on the Internet, but I think…oh, this is exciting! I think he’s just moved in: my first annoying neighbour.
I first noticed him last week. I was on my way downstairs, and the door at the end of the hall flew open as I passed. A man burst out, all “Where are you going?”—no smile, no greeting, just “Where are you going?” So I told him where I was going, which was to peer in the windows of the new supermarket downstairs. I asked if he’d been yet, and he shrugged and went back in. I figured that’d be the last I’d see of him…but I’ve just been down putting out the dust, and on my way back up—“Where have you been?”
I can feel that man getting ready to make life difficult. I like to do things, y’know—I used to go to Nazi Music Guy’s flat every once in a while, to smear kefir on his doorknob. Or I’d hang pictures in the lift, or leave plants outside people’s doors. Do I need, like…a rehearsed pack of lies, in case this guy busts me sneaking by with a basket of succulents? Let me see:
Where are you going?
- I’m returning these plants. Their leaves look like tongues.
- I’m getting breakfast. Want some?
- I have a job interview.
- I’m begging. Spare change?
- I don’t know: where are you going?
- To the dentist. Want to come?
Yeah. I’m pretty good at lies.