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The People Above The Stairs

Who doesn't love apartment living, am I right? If something breaks, it is someone else's contractual responsibility to fix it. No property taxes. If you decide you no longer like where you are, you can just move. No dealing with realtors, waiting for your home to sell, searching for another one, closing costs, delays. Sweet, right? Well, mostly.

Apartment hunting is a challenge in and of itself - you've got to find a place that meets your specific needs in a location that is convenient and that fits into your budget. People like me don't want to be living in a complex that is full of college kids who think a Thursday is the perfect night to invite all their friends over for an impromptu "get together" at 11:30 pm. Then again, they probably don't want to be living in a complex with old timers like me. Fair enough.

Let me just say that I LOVE where I live. I lived here in the early nineties as a single gal (yep, I just said "gal") just starting out my career in clinical research, before I ever became a nurse. I started out in a one bedroom apartment that had not been renovated. Original sink in the bathroom, original tub, tile, kitchen cabinets, and the landlord even threw in a bonus - a small hole in the floor where I could look down and actually see the dirt in the crawlspace below. Still, I absolutely loved it. So much history and character. Built in 1940 for servicemen and their families, they were one and two bedroom apartments that still had sentry quarters in the attic of each building!

I managed to get myself into a two bedroom apartment where I lived happily for several years. Still with original sinks, cabinets, etc., but in much better shape. I actually got engaged in that apartment, Christmas Eve 1993, sitting on the floor in the living room by the Christmas tree. Oddly, though, I don't remember dealing with lots of noise from neighbors back then, probably because the complex was full of older folks who had lived there for decades.

I've been back here basically since 2014, and it is my home, my sanctuary, my happy place. Trying to get me to leave it for any length of time requires a lot of cajoling and usually the promise of food and maybe a movie, plus the reassurance that I don't have to put on makeup and can wear my leggings. The atmosphere of this place reminds me of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, Rear Window. All of the buildings face outwards, so the back door of each building leads to a center parking lot, grassy area, and the original laundry room located in the basement of one of the buildings. We walk our dogs, stop and chat, decorate our back porches for the holidays, and literally take each other food. I always know there's a cup of sugar waiting to be borrowed on either side of me.

And then there's the people above the stairs. At one time, I was the person above the stairs. Other than being a bit heavy footed, I think I was a pretty good upstairs neighbor. At least until Brody came along. Then the people below me moved out and I snagged it! No more climbing up and down stairs twelve times a day to walk the dog. Unfortunately, I did not realize what living on the first floor really meant. The first guy to live above me was a weird, kind of sketchy dude who was in and out of the building at all hours. To make things worse, he had two equally odd children, aged 3 and 4. They didn't stay with him all the time, but when they did, there was no mistaking it. Little two-footed Romper Stompers who spent their entire weekend with Dad running back and forth throughout the apartment, which was obviously way too small to contain two pre-schoolers.

Sadly, our landlord was killed in a car crash, and his brother and sister inherited the 14 units he had bought and put his blood, sweat, and tears (and a lot of money) into renovating. They hired a local real estate company to manage things, and the first thing she did was raise our rent. (Would you like to see my shocked face?) First, it was my neighbor's upstairs tenant who left. She couldn't afford the rent increase. Her apartment, which my beloved landlord and friend had not had a chance to renovate yet before he died, remains abandoned and disgusting. (Which reminds me, I really need to get in there and get some pictures.) Next, sketchy guy made his exit, taking his two children and their concrete shoes with him.

The upstairs apartment remained empty for a while, which was perfectly fine with me, although the fact that I continued to hear footsteps and furniture being dragged around was a bit disconcerting, even to this horror-lover.

Enter Dick and Jane. Not their real names, obviously, but I knew I was in trouble when they had a very loud argument in the stairwell on moving day. Let me rephrase that. She yelled at him and the friend helping move furniture while they just stood their with the sofa, waiting to get in the apartment. I felt bad enough for the boyfriend, but that poor bastard who got conned into helping friends move on his day off with the promise of beer and pizza (and most likely weed) was just standing there like a hostage. I haven't seen him since.

Don't get me wrong, Dick and Jane are both very nice people. She is your standard issue hot young blonde, but with a set of vocal cords that is permanently set on banshee. You know that video that circulates on Facebook where the two police officers are investigating a cemetery at night and suddenly run back to the squad car when they hear some sort of unholy scream? Kind of the same thing. Except that I can't run. THERE IS NOWHERE TO RUN. What makes it even more annoying is that you can't really make out what they're saying, with the exception of the f-bombs that are dropped every 2.6 seconds. Not that I really want to know what they're fighting about, but it's like there's a radio on somewhere that is stuck between stations and I can't get to it to turn the damn thing off. Oh, and did I mention they have a cat? It seems that they like this cat, except when it jumps up on something it shouldn't. That's the only time I actually hear Dick's voice, because when he's fighting with Jane, he can barely get a word in edgewise. I hear them doing laundry, taking showers, peeing. The only thing I haven't heard so far is the one thing you would expect that I would hear! All I have to say about that is thank goodness for box fans set on high. And pharmaceuticals.

To their credit, they recently took a month long road trip together in a van that he tricked out for their cross country vacay. Honestly, I really didn't expect both of them to come back alive, much less with their relationship intact, so props to them. I don't know anyone I would want to be cooped up in a van with for a month. While they were gone, her sister came to take care of the cat. What my neighbor and I didn't realize, however, was that she would actually be staying overnight, and not alone. By the time the month was over, I was waiting in breathless anticipation for the return of Dick and Jane.

The day they returned home, I had spent most of the morning having to listen to whatever music this random dude was playing in the apartment. I couldn't make out what songs he played, but I can tell you they all had a SICK bass. Once I didn't hear the music anymore, I let out a deep breath, turned the volume on my tv back down, and settled in for a quiet afternoon on the couch with Brody. Suddenly, my ears perk up. The hair on the back of my neck stands up, and I am on the edge of my seat. that arguing I hear?! Could it be? I hear the familiar screech of Jane's voice, berating Dick for some unknown infraction, and just like that, all is right with the world.

Welcome back, Dick and Jane. Welcome back.

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