This piece was retrieved from an old archive of my online writing—there will likely be some rough edges!
Only the first two of those words apply to me.
Neighbors are interesting. We live in such close proximity to these people, especially apartment dwellers like myself, and after some time together, we start to recognize each other’s faces. We say “hello” or hold the door for each other when one of us has groceries hanging off both arms, but we don’t really know these people. They’re on the other side of the wall, or the hallway, sometimes no more than a dozen feet, and yet we’re living completely different lives.
Case in point: I wanted to do some laundry last night. My building has two sets of washers and dryers, so it’s usually not a problem. But last night, everything was at a standstill: both washers were filled with damp clothes, the dryers filled with warm ones. Usually, this is a matter of just waiting for the person to move their loads ahead one step—still, not a problem. But after you wait for 60 minutes for the neighbor to take that step, it gets a little frustrating.
I move the laundry out of the washer, put mine in, and wait 30 minutes. I come back, and nothing has changed, which means my neighbor left their clothes sitting there for at least 90 minutes. In my opinion, that’s well beyond the threshold for the golden rule of shared laundry: Your dirty shit is not holy, and it can and will be moved if you don’t hit your deadlines.
As I’m going to pull everything out of the dryer, I’m accosted by my neighbor. Just before, I saw him and his wife out in the hallway. She had fallen, being drunk, on a Sunday night, and he was trying to pick her up. When he cussed me out and threatened to call the cops on me (?!), he couldn’t keep his eyes straight. He left as soon as he came, with me understanding just about half of what he said. Of course, I never did heard from the cops.
Getting yelled at isn’t all that frustrating, and I never felt physically threatened—he could barely stand, much less do anything to me. But now, he’s dramatically altered the balance, if you will, of the place in which I live. How am I supposed to react, now, when I see him in the hallway. Give him the finger, or turn the other cheek? Should I close that door on his face, make him drop his groceries to dig out his key?
Well, enough complaining. I’m just biding my time until some literary magazine is holding a theme issue on “laundry.” I know where I’ll be going for inspiration.