I moved into my current apartment around New Year’s Day. It’s the third floor in a house divided into three units, is super toasty and about a mile from the beach and kinda sorta perfectly-sized for a bachelor who spends the vast majority of his time writing & editing & professoring rather than bacheloring. I figured to be very happy here.
Two weeks after I moved in, a couple moved into the double unit just below me. In the month they’ve been here, the cops have been called on them 4 or 5 times, and could’ve been called another 4-5 times. They fight. Constantly. Violently. It’s ugly. He curses every other word and his larynx only appears to have two settings: silent and full-throated yelling.
He curses at her and calls her “whore.” A lot. He also physically attacks her. A lot.
She apparently comes from a family well-known to the local police. The first time they were called, they advised the landlord to get this woman out of the house ASAP. That day, the woman told the cops she wanted this guy kicked out. There was an officer stationed outside the house that day, Super Bowl Sunday, for hours, monitoring while this dude packed all his stuff up into his car and drove off.
By 8:00 Monday morning, I woke up to his voice downstairs. Turns out she invited him back. They told the landlord they were “working things out.” Nothing changes. The semester began 3 weeks ago. I’ve taught 6 days in that time. 3 of the nights before I had to teach, I was awoken by them fighting, the cops arriving, or both. Another night, I’d gone to bed super-early because I was sick, only to be woken at 5 in the morning by him repeatedly telling her she’s a whore. I guess he feels whores are like Bloody Mary or Candyman, and that if you just repeat it enough, it comes true.
One day last week, I literally thought he killed her. It was Wednesday at noon, and they were going at it again. There was yelling back and forth, and then I heard her make what sounded like a choking sound. It was dead quiet for 2 minutes. Then, for the next 20 minutes, all I could hear was him weeping and rambling to what sounded like himself.
I’d been trying to work on a new short story. Instead, I spent 20 minutes with my ear pressed to the ground, hoping to God to hear any sign that she wasn’t dead. I was caught in indecision–if this woman was bleeding, or unconscious, and I didn’t call the police, and she died, I’d be complicit in her death. If I called the cops and it turned out she was fine–rather, no different than usual–then they’d know I called the police on them, and maybe now they’d turn against me. Then I thought, “This isn’t something I need to be dealing with.”
At 1 in the morning on Friday, they had one of their biggest fights. Near the climax, she actually said, “Someone call the police.” Then I heard him run at her, she screamed, and it sounded like a bomb went off.
A few minutes later, the police arrived. The man told them she’s clumsy and always bumping into things. She, as always, refused to press charges. The cops left. Que sera, sera.
The landlord came over today and told them they have to leave by the end of the month, and if they don’t, eviction proceedings will begin. Right as this conversation ended, the girl flipped out and started screaming about drug dealers banging on the door at 1:30. I thought she was talking about the guy she lives with. The landlord asked me if I’d heard any late-night banging. Only from the two of them, I said.
A little while later, I could hear this woman on the phone with someone (the floors in this house are paper-thin). She was complaining to them about “the girl downstairs” and “the guy upstairs” (that’s me). She said I had drug dealers coming over at 1:30 in the morning banging on the door.
It’s nerve-wracking living above two people who don’t respect themselves or one another enough to not abuse each other (I’ve only described his physical abuse of her; she totally mentally abuses this guy all day). When you realize someone is crazy enough to make up lies about you, though…it’s a whole other level of WTF.
I’ve only had one exchange with this girl. Ever. A friend came to visit me one morning last week. Because of all the snow, it’s almost impossible to find off- or on-street parking anywhere around here. My friend decided to pull into the driveway, behind our cars, perpendicular. I knocked on the girl’s door. When she answered I asked her which car he should park behind, so he wouldn’t be in her way if she had to go somewhere.
That’s it. That’s the ONLY exchange we’ve ever had.
Now she’s making up stories about me.
I thought the landlord telling them they had to leave would make me feel better. Instead, I’m sitting in my apartment at 2:51 on a Sunday afternoon, full of adrenaline, uncomfortable under my own roof and uncomfortable with the thought of leaving. I’ve been trying to grade papers and create lesson plans today. I was hoping to get going on the new short story. Instead, I feel anxious. Super anxious. I feel like people who show no respect for themselves or for others are even more likely to turn ugly after being told they have to leave in 2 weeks.