Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Continuing my terrible neighbor streak

So tonite, I was sitting in the living room next to the window three flights above the entrance to our building. Whenever people approach the building's entrance, I can hear them thru the living room window. I can hear when their feet crunch on the dirty cement as they approach, I can hear when they burp or sneeze as they approach, I can hear them shouting into their cell phones as they approach.... basically, whatever's going on three storeys down, I can hear. Which is why I don't spend much time in the living room.

Over the years, I've heard a lot. One memorable over-hear was the time the crazy crackhead lady in 1B got angry at her air conditioner and argued so violently with it that she shoved it out the window, followed by a towel (perhaps the AC was supposed to clean itself up).

Crazy crack lady, by the way, is a very nice woman most of the time. She can be a bit manic--she used to mop the lobby floor while naked, and with the mop turned upside down, 'smoking' a cigarette filter-first, for instance. Furiously scrubbing the floor, the wooden handle gouging the tile, the yarn of the mop slapping her in the back of her head. Breasts swinging, backwards cigarette dangling, her carefully unkempt hair drifting back and forth. And sometimes, when I pass her in the stairwell (she climbs the stairs to scratch paint chips off the walls to smoke, no lie), she smiles at me and laughs, delighted as if greeting an old friend. Crackheads sometimes have the most melodious laugh, like a well-tuned piano being played by a lemur.

Crack lady isn't always pleasant tho, and has in fact been evicted. But she's still around anyway, because she has friends in the building--she disappears for a while, then I'll come home to find her scraping paint or mopping. She was evicted for being too violent--the AC she threw out the window is the least of the damage she's done to the building and to the people who live here.

Anyway. So. Sitting in the living room, reading. Greg's out--gaming or something--and I'm alone with Waf, who is snoozing on the futon.

Outside, I hear a very loud woman screaming in Spanish. I can tell she's turning the corner from the street to our building's entrance, and that she's very agitated about something police-related. Always interesting. So I listen for a bit, realize there's some English mixing in with the Spanish. "The police are coming!" she screams. "You came to my house," she counters, apparently to herself. "You came to my house so now I'm coming to your's."

Then the buzzer in my hall goes off, which means she's pressing the button for our apartment. The button activating said buzzer for our apartment is located next to the front door of our building. It has our apartment number on it. Essentially, that button is a question buzzing, "Can I come in?"

Usually, I ignore the buzzer unless I'm expecting company or deliveries because people mistakenly press the various CLEARLY LABELED buttons all the time--someone means to buzz 5D, say, and thinks 2F is close enough. Since I'm both bad at math and dyslexic, I don't fault the mistaken button-press. I just ignore it.

I try to ignore this errant button press as well, but Waf isn't ignoring. He jumps from the futon, barking frantically, and runs to our apartment door (he's learned that the buzz from the hall means activity at our door).

"Waffles. Shh." I cross to him, pick him up, put him on my lap.

More buzzing. More screaming from the building's entrance coming in through the window. "What do you want me to do? The police, oh my god [Spanish Spanish] stop it, just fucking stop it!"

The woman at the building entrance now has her finger permanently pressed to our apartment's buzzer, and the buzzing makes Waf abandon the barking for cowering and whimpering in my lap. So, to save Waf's sanity--because he's now clearly broken--I go into the hall to the source of the buzzing sounds: a tiny box with a speaker and three buttons marked Talk, Listen and Open. It's kinda like 'Alice in Wonderland' to get into most apartment buildings.

The buzzing wants me to press the open button, which'll open the building's entrance. I gamble, and press 'Talk.'

I press 'Talk' because, if it's the crazy crack lady, I see no reason to let her into the building. And frankly, most of what's been drifting in through the living room window sounds pretty damn nuts.

"Yes?" I say into the microphone/speaker box. And I can hear my voice coming out of a similar speaker downstairs by the entrance door.

"I need to get in. Can I get in? I need to see my friend."

Perhaps her friend, I think for a moment, is not answering his own damn buzzer because he's attempted suicide, and she's rushed over to save him? He's overdosed, maybe? Not likely. Maybe he just doesn't want her to come in. Maybe he's not home, in which case why would she want in to the building? To sit on the stairs and wait for him? Perhaps peeling paint chips from the stairwell walls, saving them for later?

"Who is your friend?" I ask.

Incidentally, the way our magic talking box works is that I press the 'talk' button to talk, and the 'listen' button to listen. The magic talking box by the entrance door works the same way. The woman at the entrance door hasn't mastered this concept, because while I'm trying to get more info before letting her into the building--this is NYC, not a 'Seinfeld' episode, and there's been a few muggings in the building next to our's--she keeps her finger on her 'talk' button. I can hear her rattling off a Hamlet-sized monologue, but because I'm now in the hall, I can only hear the quantity of her voice, but not the quality of it. Muffled. So I press 'listen' again, and from my magic talking box I hear: "... lives in 3E, just let me in."

So I press my 'talk' button and ask, "Who is your friend?" again. Press 'listen'.

"Cedric."

Waf, meanwhile, is now at my feet, still whimpering, nearly catatonic. Never seen him like this before. I stroke his back with my toes. The poor dog is traumatized by the incessant buzzing.

Cedric, I think. Cedric is a pretty cool name.

Before pressing the 'open' button, which allows the entrance door to, you know, 'open', I scoop up Waf--the poor dog is shivering and whimpering and unresponsive--and return to the living room window, just to make sure it's not crazy crack lady. I part the blinds, look down, and see two young women. One rather heavy, one rather thin, both pushing against the front door as if hoping to force it open. One is talking into a cell phone, and I can hear her clearly. "You've got to let me in. The POLICE, Cedric, they're coming. Don't give me that shit, you came to my house and I didn't say nothing."

The buzzer in the hall goes nuts again. Constant, needling 'Can I come in?' sounds bursting from the speaker. Waf shudders, sticks his nose into my arm pit.

I return to the magic talking box in the hall. Press 'talk'. "Stop it. I don't know who you are so I'm not gonna let you in."

Again I hear screaming, but I don't bother to press 'listen' so I don't hear what she says. A few more buzzes, and then the hallway is silent.

Here's the thing: The police never came. The girls got into the building--Cedric apparently decided to be a gentleman and buzz them up. I could hear the front door buzzing them in a few minutes after I hung up on G's voicemail.

Waf's still recovering--seriously, I don't understand the mind of dogs very well, so I have no idea if there is long-term damage from being exposed to repeated hallway buzzings, but he's whimpering in his sleep.

The terror in the girl's voice, coming thru my magic voice box speaker, that bothers me, tho. She sounded both profoundly guilty of something, and also profoundly scared of police--her declaration that 'the police were coming' carried the same mythic weight as the faux-Mother Goose rhyme about Freddy Krueger. A horror of some kind was approaching, two girls standing at the front door of salvation, and all they needed to survive was a simple button-push. That's it. The horror was coming, safety just inside a door, and the only thing these two girls could do was beg someone--anyone--to press a button, open a door, let them in.

I didn't press the button. Didn't save them. Someone else--I presume Cedric, but who knows?--saved the girls from certain or imagined doom. Or maybe someone else--not Cedric--let the girls into the building and ruined Cedric's life.

Next time, I'll just press the 'open' button for whomever, and whatever happens happens. It'll save Waf the stress. Might cause a murder or save a life. But at least Waf won't be assaulted by buzzing noises.

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