Dear Downstairs Neighbor;

On March 3, 2007 by Eden M. Kennedy

At first you seemed so nice.

When did the weirdness begin? I only became aware of it that morning soon after you’d moved in, when Cookie was yanking me toward our door and you jerked your toddler away from us. Even after I said, “Oh, sorry! Cookie’s really very friendly!” you frowned silently all the way to your car.

Well, sometimes people just have bad days. I let it go!

Then there was that afternoon out by the playground. I was yapping with our neighbor, J, about our shared petition to install up-to-date soundproofing and hardwood floors in our units. I laughed about the family with three teenagers that used to live below us, how we drove them crazy by knocking on their door every night to ask them to please fucking turn down the NASA-grade subwoofer on their 500-inch TV. However, I told J, our new neighbors (you!) were so nice, we only had to explain once about the fact that these condos were insulated with cotton candy and soundproofed with tinfoil, and they (meaning you) understood. And we were so grateful to be living above reasonable people that we ignored the weird, strangling-a-duck, thumping sounds that came up through our floor now and then.

Yes, I was talking with another neighbor about you when I noticed that you were behind me on the play equipment with your son. Frowning.

Later, I went over the conversation with Jack — had I said anything mean about your family? No! But maybe just the fact of being talked about as though you weren’t there was like giving little chunks of raw hamburger to the venus flytrap of your antipathy toward me.

Was it my stupid license plates? Or was it because I’d inadvertently grown into the habit of ignoring you.

It’s certainly not your fault that I only got one good look at you when we met, but you seemed so conventionally pretty — so practical and vaguely bohemian in a predictable, twentysomething way — that my mind registered no retrievable impression of your face.

It’s not one of my more winning traits, having to be introduced to some people three or four times before I remember who they are.

So, every time I saw you I thought you were just someone visiting another family in the complex. You’d drive by, I’d look to see if I recognized you, and when I didn’t I’d go back to checking my mail or picking up a pile of dog poo with a plastic bag, only realizing, as I glanced at the out-of-state license plates as your rear bumper receded down the street, that goddamn it! Once again for all the world it appeared as though I’d snubbed you.

Then, two weeks ago — oh, I know you remember! The night Jackson was delightedly thumping his heels on the floor and you responded by pounding on your ceiling? Jackson wanted to know if the people downstairs were mad at him. I said no, that sometimes people were busy and couldn’t come knock on your door and tell you politely that you were being too loud, they just banged on the ceiling.

But the anger, it rose up like fumes through our floor. That’s when Jackson and I both started tiptoeing around the house.

Jack ran into your husband and actually thanked him for the warning shot through our floor; it taught Jackson that he needed to think about the effect of the noise he was making on family below. Your husband rolled his eyes and said, “She’s . . . uh, yeah.” He seemed like he’d had enough of something but he didn’t tell us what.

Huh, we thought. Maybe there are some bigger issues down there.

So it was that yesterday you and I parked our cars at the same time and as you walked past you . . . waved and said hello! I said hello back! And pretended that it had never been otherwise, but whoa, I cannot tell you, what a strange relief fluttered through the air between us.

But — hold on a minute — that was you? Your hair is darker than I admittedly only sort of remembered. I started thinking back on all the times I thought I’d seen you with your son, and holy shit, maybe that hadn’t been you. Was it a sitter with a similar vaguely bohemian style? Was it your slightly older sister with somewhat lighter hair?

Are we now dealing with some sort of Bewitched / I Dream of Jeannie evil twin situation?

Yes. We are, aren’t we. Destabilized as I’ve become, it will be that much easier to open a time portal beneath my shower and soon my brain will end up in a jar at NORAD. Then Major Healey will steal it and, pretending to be his own pregnant wife, smuggle it onto an Air Force jet and into hiding with your uncle the rug merchant in Baghdad.

Those cute genie outfits may work in Cocoa Beach, evil Jeannie, but Baghdad’s not what it used to be, back in the day. I’m just telling you. Blink yourself into a burkha, ASAP, and GIVE ME BACK MY BRAIN!!!

P.S. That lady who walks around the neighborhood wearing a fur coat, turban, and bedroom slippers, her name wouldn’t happen to be Endora, would it?



30 Responses to “Dear Downstairs Neighbor;”

  • It’s not an evil twin. It’s the woman her husband is banging because he’s sick of his wife’s banging the ceiling.

  • I love the way your (admittedly kind of twisted) mind works! I don’t know where I Dream of Jeannie came from (was it via the brain in the jar?), but somehow it fit right in. Thanks for this mood-lifter.

  • “the venus flytrap of your antipathy”!!!

    It’s such a strange feeling to laugh out loud when you’re alone sitting at your computer…I’m stealing that too, by the way.

    I love this post — it brings back many furifying memories.

    Also — sorry I messed up your comment stream. I was being clutzy with this (furifying) comment system on a new computer.

  • Makes me realize how i don’t miss living in a space that shares walls with other peoples spaces. I especially don’t miss the hostility fumes seeping through the walls/floor/ceiling.

  • I think it would be funny if your downstairs neighbor suddenly replaced her husband with a new guy with the same first name and the studio audience pretends like nothing happened. Or was that Bewitched? Either way, it would be funny. Especially if he was an astronaut because now we know they wear diapers which made the coolness of being an astronaut drop about 500%.

  • I wrote about how I wouldn’t mind if my neighbors hated me because that would only make it mutual, chuckling in my certainty that they do not speak English and even if they did they would not be reading English blogs and even if they did they would not be reading mine. Two days later, I’m checking the mail and Mr. Somebody stops and says, “Hey, you have an … interesting… blog!”

    Not merely my brain, but my entire being slithered through the floor. The mortification portal is a gaping maw of horror.

  • Astronauts wear diapers?

  • HHHHmmm, I suppose her husband is telling this story the same way you are except he’s fantasizing about the Stepford Wives instead of Bewitched.

  • I certainly don’t miss living so close to neighbors! When we bought our first house we were SO excited to be at least an arms-length from people on each side of us…but we ended up with some whacked out neighbors again. It’s like you can’t run from them.

  • I can’t wait until the next installment, though I fear it could end in tragedy.

  • I’m worried that her toddler will grow older sitcom-style and soon be the gangsta high schooler selling drugs right under your feet.

  • That was so, so funny. Our neighbours on one side are gangsters. I’m convinced of it. Exhibit 1 – he’s shorter than she is. Exhibit 2 – THEY KILLED OUR HEDGE!

  • You are not alone, Matilda. :)

    Next door. Took a candle and card with “WELCOME” and our (unlisted #) a couple weeks after they arrived. The cell phone never left her ear during our (in-person)conversation. That was it for me, thank you.

    Across the street. Similar candle, card, info. No answer at door, left parcel on porch. Next day, she was getting her child on the afternoon bus…no eye contact, no “hello, yes, I see you across the street getting out of your car”, no nothing, no shit.

    I am wasting good candles. Another neighbor was kind to us when we arrived; I’d like to be that but not so much anymore.

  • It used to be that neighbors were friendly, even if they were all seedy and freakish in private.

    Here’s hoping that there’s nothing between you that a nice shared bottle of pinot can’t fix.

  • People who aren’t having sex with each other shouldn’t have to hear each other’s noise. At least the women. It’s good to hear the very detailed thoughts that go through our heads, that our men shrug their shoulders at.

  • God, my kids are so loud – I can’t imagine living on top of someone. We would have so many enemies!

    Love your blog. It’s my first time visit, but I’ll definitely come back. Bitsy

  • This really took me back to my days of apartment living. My upstairs neighbor used to hang out on the stoop just outside of my door drinking with his scary/loser friends. One time, I heard rustling in the bushes next to one of my windows. Freaked out, I pulled back my curtains and looked right into the face of one of his drunken buddies pissing on my window. I was so wishing I’d had a Rottweiler to sic on him.

  • Sounds like she might be bipolar.

  • wait a minute…what? what just happened?

  • For a minute I thought you were telling us in a clever way that you are pregnant, but it was just Major Healy.

  • Love your blog… can’t wait to see what will happen next in your crazy world!

  • I was just browsing through blogs and I have to say that I love your blog!!!

  • I think it’s funny that you even know your neighbors. The most I know about anyone who lives within a five-house radius of me is that the two ladies that live next door had a screaming fight at 2 a.m. a few months back, yelling things like “Who bought you cigarettes when you were pregnant? And this is how you repay me?!”

  • Maybe she got some bad botox?

  • You know, looking at this photo of the brain in a jar makes me wish I could open up my head just to scratch my brain, like that mad scientist in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

    Or maybe I need to call Dr. Bombay.

  • Yes! Identical cousins! I knew that could happen! And it’s way less icky than the twins fantasy most men have because, you know, no incest.

    You can be the wacky snooping neighbor. See if you can get DNA samples from the hairbrushes.

  • She wasn’t real pleased yesterday when she came around the corner and saw me pulling a REALLY long piece of grass out of the dog’s ass.

    Less so when she saw me taste it.

  • Our neighbors hate us, too. They glare at us every time we walk by. Well, the woman does, anyway. Apparently we make noise at all hours of the day and night. Because I’m supposed to levitate upstairs when I get home from work at night. Or we’re supposed to muzzle and pad the Boyo at all times. Very un-PC-ly, we call them the Angry Chinamen. I think they might actually be not Chinese, but for some reason that name has stuck.

  • Oh, upstairs downstairs neighbor wars of fun! Prior to buying our home, our upstairs neighbors would have loud, raucous sex (college students… do you remember the days?), multiple times per day, to the song “Dotcha (Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me.” The best part? They didn’t move in until January 1st of that year, when our son was not quite two months old and, thus, not sleeping through the night.

    The song, to this day, makes me twitch.

    That said, now our neighbors across the street (diagonally) hate us for some unknown reason. That’s okay, because the kids next door sell girl scout cookies and think my baby is cute. They win.

  • I have read your blog carefully and like it a lot! We have the same opnion! Could you check my blog at: to check my blog title: helenwang`s blog”? May be we can talk further and be friends.