My Neighbors

9 Mar

The residents of my apartment building are a mixed bunch.  Some families with a child or two, maybe with grandma or grandpa hanging around, too.  There was one old fellow whose whole left side was paralyzed by a stroke, yet every day he made it to the elevator, down to the first, and did a couple of laps around the lobby, literally inching along, dragging his limp left leg as best he could.  I just realized he’s gone; I haven’t seen in a few months.  Maybe the old bird passed on.  A sad thought, he was a tenacious one.

But there are also lots of single businessmen in the building as well.  I think that characterizes my immediate neighbors well. I rarely if ever actually see him.  Most contact is auditory.  The man who lives to the left of me was yelling and shouting one day and I heard tables and chairs being knocked around.  Hopefully he wasn’t beating a woman, because it certainly sounded like it.  On New Year’s, there was a raucous party over there.  They had long, heated conversations which tapered off every now and then.  There would be long periods of silence.  Then another energetic  and deafening outburst, perhaps every thirty or forty minutes until almost seven in the morning.  I could just imagine a graveyard of empty soju bottles scattered across a wooden floor strewn with the bodies of hammered Korean men, intertwined and dozing in their high school girl-like slumber party.

My neighbor across the hall is a nice guy.  At least, I guess.  I met him in the elevator when he was drunk.  In typical Korean man fashion, he tried to invite me in to drink beer with him, but I had people to meet.  Poor guy, I thought, he has no one to talk to.  Must be lonely.  Well, I think he had plenty of company last night.  For over thirty minutes he attempted to enter his apartment.  Part of the reason it took so long was because he was so drunk he forgot his electronic door code.  It kept telling him it was the wrong combination.  But his attempts were continually interrupted by long smooches with the prostitute who accompanied him, her giggles seeping under my door and into my tired ears.  Then perhaps he tickled or pinched her and she ran off down the hall with a pouty shout, her heels echoing off the tile floors until, a few minutes later, she came back and he tried to enter the code again, to no avail.  At about 2:27, I heard a triumphal shout from the man and a laugh from the hooker and then went into the apartment, slamming the door and yanking the door handle up to lock it, the handle bouncing up and down from the force.

All around me, less than twenty feet in either direction, are people living out their lives in totally different paths.  And we do not know one another except by our intrusive proclivities.   My neighbors are the drunken businessmen.  Maybe they know me as the damn round-eye playing Mogwai at 3 AM.  We never see each other and never meet and have very little reason to, for the proclivities we do see from others are only the ones that intrude, not the ones that endear.  Proximity does not breed trust.  It merely pushes us to find greater space in non-physical ways.

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2 Responses to “My Neighbors”

  1. thebobster 15 May 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    Human beings are perverse and seek actively what we least need, avoid what we truly desire most. It’s obvious that community is best, better than isolation, but confronted with the masses of anonymous humans we encounter every day, and the dangers and especially the uncertainties they show us … who would seek less than that wall we build and maintain and hide behind?

    In any big city, it’s the sane thing to do.

    And perhaps more so for us,expatriates who have freely chosen to live in a land where we may likely only ever slightly understand even the words of our neighbors – and how much less likely will we see into their hearts …

    Your vignette could have happened in Reno, or Delhi, or Hamburg. It’s Life in the Big City.

    And we chose it, didn’t we? That’s the really curious thing.

    • autarkes 17 May 2010 at 1:08 pm #

      You’re definitely right about the aspect of perversity, especially when it comes to be an expat of the existential variety. You and I are not starving refugees forced from our homeland into a strange country. It is indeed what we chose. We like being outsiders, being confronted by strange experiences, foods, people, the weirder the better. So maybe when something comes across as alienating, we’re still getting what we asked for, even if it’s not pleasing to us.

Inveigh against me.

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