February 17, 2005

Things I Would Say to My Neighbor, If I Knew Her Beyond Bumming Her One Cigarette


So, wow: You and the boyfriend fight a lot, huh? At least once a week, always after midnight, all doors-a-slamming and "fuck-you's" a-flying. Crazy stuff.

Not that I mind it so much because, oh my, you have no idea how much more liveable you two are compared to my previous neighbors . . . but, well, sometimes, with all the doors-a-slamming and fuck-you's-a-flying, I can't help it: I find myself tensing up, waiting for that sound of a body hitting the floor, the wall, the couch--that moment when I'm forced to think, "Whoa, time to call the police."

Anyway, my bad for intercepting you just at the start of one of these episodes. That must have been pretty awkward for you both, huh?--The way I had to sort of wait for you and your guy to quit chasing each other across the parking lot so I could pull into the one available space? (Does the parking situation suck here, or what?)

But I was real, real determined not to bother you both or even, to be honest, make eye contact with either of you. Oh, okay, I admit I kept an eye out from the corner, just to make sure he wasn't overstepping the bounds or anything as you were trying to make a not-so-smooth getaway in your car. I always try to keep a look out.

I believe it was at about the point he urged gently, "Honey, don't drive; you're drunk," that I decided he probably didn't mean you any harm. Certainly he did not raise his voice to say so; the only raised voice I heard was yours, telling him to get the fuck off your car.

Yeah. Sad. Still, that would have been the end of it, except you popped out of the driver's seat at that moment and bounded over to me and the boyfriend chirping, "Hey, either of you got a cigarette?" And I think when I asked you which you preferred, a Capri 120 or a Marlboro Light, you answered, "I'll take one of each!"

I figured you were then in a better mood than I'd thought at first, except you were still seeming pretty hostile to the boyfriend. He must have done something pretty bad, huh? Or maybe not. Maybe you two just weren't meant to have a threesome with Lady Alcohol. I don't really know.

What I do know is that when your man coaxed you back into the apartment, his job made easier by your pacification with the cigarettes (one of each!), I felt a little bad for you both and I said, with all due respect and just as deferentially as I possibly could, "Y'all look out for one another, now."

And you muttered, perhaps louder than you realized, "Fuck you."

Man, your guy . . . he looked ready to drop through the concrete as he hissed at you, "Shhh!" And then he looked at me as if to say, "I'm sorry, but this is how she gets."

Which, believe me, I know. I think I mentioned it up above, but I have heard how you get. Over, and over, and over. Only now, it's dawning on me that I don't so much hear him as I hear you.

I'm not saying he's perfect. Maybe you have a good reason to shout him down. Maybe you have a dozen good reasons. I had one like that once, and I didn't have a dozen good reasons, I had a hundred.

But what I'm thinking is, if he's no good, then you should leave him. And if he is any good, and it's just that you've kind of sort of got into this habit of screaming at him because you know in your bones he will always, always put up with it?

Then you should really leave him.

Maybe find yourself someone who will challenge you but like, in a good way. Maybe find yourself someone who will drive you and inspire you to be the best person you can be. Maybe find yourself someone who won't lie down on the porch and stamp "WELCOME" on his ass every time you throw a shit fit, because that situation's no good for you or for him. You'll only grow to despise him, and he, he can only do likewise.

Meanwhile maybe there's a man out there who will see you get all angry-drunk and say firmly, "You can leave if you like. You don't have to stay here if you're angry with me. But you'll go home in the cab I call for you, and not behind the wheel where you could maybe kill somebody." And then he needs to have that look in the eye that says This Word Is Final. Oh, don't even--you know that look and so do I. It's not the same as that look that says, You'll Do as I Say or I'll Belt You One; it's different. I'm not talking about that look, the chickenshit's look. I'm talking about that look that says, I Have Had It up to Here with Your Shit and You'll Do as I Say or I'll Leave You, for Good, Forever, Adios.

Meanwhile maybe there's a woman out there who can put two and two together and figure, if all drinking with this guy does is make me angry, maybe we shouldn't drink together. Better yet, maybe there's a woman out there who can get giddy and happy and joyous and excited and passionate about this guy, whether alcohol's involved or not.

And maybe when that woman bums a smoke off a stranger who wishes her well, she can manage a more civil response than, "Fuck you."

Posted by Ilyka at February 17, 2005 10:44 AM in navel gazing

Ouch. Sounds like a job for Nosy Neighbor. The letter should be to the fella though - sounds doubtful that the lady would get much out of it.

Posted by: Jim at February 17, 2005 11:13 AM

I read every word of this and thought of my old neighbors, I thought of the screaming and slamming doors.

And I love you for writing it.

Posted by: Helen at February 17, 2005 04:33 PM

Can't resist leaving my two cent's worth here.

I've been in the position before with the "Welcome" mat covering my ass. And the situation changed for the better only when I finally stated that Things Will Change Or I'm Gone And You Can Wallow In Your Own Shit And I Won't Pull You Out Of It, Goodbye, Amen.

Nobody, male or female, should tolerate abuse, whether it be physical, verbal, or mental. A little self-respect can go a long way.

Posted by: diamond dave at February 17, 2005 10:20 PM

As the guy who offered her the Marlboro but who didn't hear the "Fuck you" part of it, it makes me recall (and this is geeky) the part in Return of the King (the book, not the movie) where Merry gives some of his pipeweed to Saruman. And like Merry, I feel more pity than anger towards her, because I think she is obviously unhappy.

Posted by: Mark at February 17, 2005 10:39 PM