Anyone who has ever lived in a downstairs apartment knows about the infamous squeak’n’creak. Whenever the person, or persons, above or next or whatever move around you will hear the old floorboards creak about. This will happen as an inevitable probability. If the building is older, or poorly built, or both, you’ll occasionally to frequently hear thumps, bangs or actual footsteps. If you’re really lucky, that will be the worst along with some of the louder folks talk, argue or laugh.
That’s the thing: if you’re lucky.
May some infinite powerful all-being help you if they have kids. Or if they love loud music or television, or the absolute worst: those who are fresh to the world and have no idea that just because you now have freedom does not mean you should use that freedom to party with others new to the world, just barely not-kids (those 18-25ish). All of these types of people, regardless of age, have no concept of self, or of the fact that others may be annoyed at their indulgences.
It’s funny; I’m spending my morning writing hurriedly this in my living room, knowing that at any minute (actually, as I wrote this the first creak of the day occurred) upstairs will explode into a hellistic soundscape of creaks, bangs, stomps and sliding furniture.
My word count has dropped off dramatically since moving into this apartment. My book count is decimated. I've already written on some reasons why, but today I’m focusing on perhaps the most significant factor: my upstairs neighbor.
He lives alone, goes out often and comes and goes at odd hours of the day and night. He will sometimes leave for hours, even a day or two at a time. He doesn’t party (at least here), blast music or the TV, and rarely has people over.
Sounds like the perfect person, right? An absolute dream neighbor?
That’s what I thought at first.
We knew someone was moving in at a point last year, but since we would only hear it happening, was not sure who it could possibly be. The first few times I thought someone was breaking into the upstairs since it would happen so late at night. I’m talking never before 10 pm the first month. Eventually, the noises bled into the very early hours of the morning, but never during the afternoon and only a few times during the day on weekends. So who could possibly be moving in?
The noises would sometimes happen at night. Footsteps, the sounds of the front door opening and closing, things scrapping on the wood flooring. I could never get a good glimpse of who was coming and going, and by the next morning, there would be no extra cars, no lights on, no noise at all. Did I have an insomniac ghost? Why would I hear the door open, someone run up the steps, but come morning no one was up there?
Month three arrived, and I found my answer: they were moving in very slowly. Suddenly curtains hung in one of the windows, and I started to hear more moving during the daytime. Loud moving. Boxes were thudding, my windows vibrating as shoes banged across our heads. How could it take three months to move in, and yet still have so much set up to do?
To say the least, it was becoming obnoxious.
Then the footsteps became louder, more consistent and occurred around the same time every day. This I took to mean that they were living here full time, finally. My armoire would shake at 5:45 am, followed by loud coughing noises and then the sound of someone rushing around in shoes. For hours. I leave for work around 7:50 am since I live about 5 minutes from my job. They would still be rushing about when I left.
When I would come home, usually, no one was upstairs. That was on a typical day, about 5 pm. By 6:30 I would hear the front door open, steps banging up the stairs, the top door slam and then all hell would break loose. Chairs would be dragged across floors, stomping from one room to another, things dropped, the sound of hammering, the sound of closet doors and cabinets opening only to be closed hard.
Nail heads popped from the sheetrock in my office and bedroom, and then one evening after work was when I lost my mind.
It was now four months after they had started to move in. I was sitting in my recliner in my living room attempting to read a book. The front door to the stairwell opened banged shut, and the sound of those dreaded lead-heavy feet pounded up the stairs. I groaned. I needed some rest from the noise. It was unrelenting, every morning and every evening. Then the boxes, or whatever, started to drop. One landed so hard above my head a piece of plaster broke from the corner of the ceiling and fell to the floor.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked myself. I thought this happened in cartoons, and not necessarily to real people in real life.
Then the door opened, and he cascaded down the steps. I caught one of my only glimpses of the strange man that lived upstairs.
I dealt with it all that week, holding my tongue and just trying to convince myself that they were new, maybe just the stress of moving was a bit much and that he couldn’t help the amount of noise he was making.
That was until that following weekend. He had… someone over, a woman, and the two of them came and went so much that I thought our front door would undoubtedly fall off its hinges. They would park outside, run (no exaggeration) in and out, ten, twelve, once even fifteen times. Bang around and finally run back down and leave for a few hours, only to show back up and do it again.
The noise would start early in the AM hours, and come and go all weekend until late at night. It was all too much. That Monday they awoke early and dragged things across the floor until I lost my mind, pounded on the ceiling and then spoke to him when he got home.
“Hey, man, I hope I’m not coming off as a jerk, but I’d really appreciate it if you could keep it down. It’s an apartment, and we can hear absolutely everything. So footsteps to you sound like stomps to us, so if you really bang things around or move stuff, it’s pretty bad down here.”
He said nothing, just stared at me.
“So, I hope I’m not being an asshole… but… it’s loud.”
Still no response. I was getting desperate.
“A piece of my ceiling fell on my head.”
“Huh.” Was all he said.
“Am I getting you pissed or something?” I was genuinely curious.
“No. I just. I can’t think of what that could’ve been. I’m not that loud. I don’t drop stuff.” He was now arguing as if he was normal and I was the crazy one.
“No,” I said, laughing. “You’re pretty loud. Just… I’d appreciate it if you just realized it is bad for us. Thanks. Have a good night, though, okay?”
And he grunted and walked away.
Fast forward a year. Three more conversations, one heated, in a snowstorm, as I wore slippers in an icy puddle of slush. I think I live under a crazy person, I’m not sure, but that’s the only thing I can conclude.
So I push though, I try to write at odd hours like I am doing right now. But this is draining, ya know? I’m a real quiet type of person. I love keeping to myself, to just leave my body and let my mind wander into my thoughts: whether it’s just thinking about my upcoming day, or writing, or reading, or getting lost in music. That’s hard to do if you have a hard time concentrating when people make noise around you. I could never write in noisy places.
Even in school, I would get up from library desks if a bunch of kids came in who apparently had no actual desire to study. They just figured “Hey, let’s hang out in the library.” I couldn’t do it.
The only thing I know I have to do is keep writing. No matter what, I have to do it to keep moving forward. I say this in every blog, but I like to recognize what all of this is. A slow march towards progress.
Plus, I think this is a pretty odd story. How could an ideal neighbor turn into such a bizarre nightmare? How can you even complain about him? “Hey, management, the guy upstairs walks a lot. And get this: he loves to wear shoes. Night and day. In fact, it’s the first thing he does is put on his shoes. Isn’t that gross? Oh, and you know that thing that only happens on TV with plaster falling on your head. It happened. Yup, to me.”
So, there is that. It generated material for the site, and that’s cool. All in all what this has turned into is one more blog that I get to post.