Our Weird Neighbor
I hesitate to share the story I am about to convey, for fear of discovery. However, this tale is just begging to be told.
Just down the hall from the apartment in which my wife and I reside lives a young woman who hangs a straw doll from the doorknob of her entry door. This is the only visible ornament in our building’s corridor – the décor of which consists of smoke-stained ceiling tiles, chewing-gum imbibed carpet, and walls the color of that stuff the janitor used to spread over the floor when some kid vomited in elementary school. “That’s great,” I used to think to myself, “here’s someone with a little bit of self-expression.”
As I have come to learn, self-expression is something that this woman has been blessed within an over-abundance of. After having lived in the building for only a few weeks, I discovered that she has a charming habit of praying out loud, at the top of her lungs’ capacity, two or three times a day. Now, I don’t know if this is a requirement of her particular religious beliefs or simply her own personal preference, but the praying can be distinctly heard throughout the entire floor.
One day, as I emerged from the stairway onto the third floor, I heard her pray something that struck fear in me and immediately made me begin to tiptoe my way back to the apartment: “…OH GOD, PLEASE HELP ME REMEMBER TO BUY MILK TODAY, AND ON THOSE DAYS WHEN I FOGET TO TAKE MY MEDICATION, PLEASE HELP ME TO MAINTAIN CONTROL OF MYSELF…”
Oh my God, we’re living with a lunatic, I thought. I hurried back down the hall to the apartment, praying my own prayer that I hadn’t disturbed her.
Now, it should be noted that this woman’s apartment sits right next to the door accessing the main stairway of the building. I typically use this stairway three or four times a day. So, unless I want to take the rear stair and follow a path that doubles the distance I must walk to reach the street, I’m stuck with confronting this door every day.
One time, as I was passing the dreaded doorway on my way out, I heard her doorknob begin to unlatch and saw an ever so slight swinging movement of the evil straw doll, indicating that her emergence from the prayer-den was imminent.
Now, I had interacted with this woman several times before. The last time, my wife and I had passed her in the hallway. When my wife said “Hi,” she just stared at us, eerily. And in the time since then, I’ve learned enough about her to strive to avoid all contact. I half expect her, at times, to pull out a dull letter opener and attempt to stab me to death.
So, of course, this time I wanted to pass her door unnoticed. I hurried my pace, the stairway door just seconds away, but to no avail. She stepped out of her threshold right in front of me, stopping me dead in my tracks. I almost peed my pants.
“Hi!” I said shakily. She just stared at me with those huge eyes through enormous, perfectly round glasses, sitting securely on her pale, pudgy, perfectly round face. She stared at me like a deer caught in headlights – and gave no response to my greeting. “Ok, then,” I said as I made a quick loop around her and booked it for the stairway.
I entered the stair, and just as the door was about to close behind me, I heard her yell “HI!” in that kind of loud, flat, scary voice that villains in movies use as they tell you the special method they’ve concocted for your death. I heard her grab the door before it closed, and enter the stairway. “Aarrgh! She’s after me!”
She wasn’t really after me, but at that moment I sure was thankful for only living as high as the third floor. The mind fills the gaps that reality leaves, and sometimes our perception of what is really happening at any given time is wildly inaccurate. Needless to say, with my imagination running full-tilt I made quick work of the staircase and ran out onto the street, where there were lots of people and she and her evil doll couldn’t get me, no way.