The apartment where we live is under the roof of a squat, two-storied house. My neighbour, who moved into the house a few months ago and never leaves his apartment, lives on the floor below, and every time we go out we are obligated to pass his apartment, to the left, the door of which invariably stands in front of the only entry/exit to the house, to the right.
Nothing that any neighbour can do has a real terror for us. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to his trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack our brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie—no, rather than that, we would creep down the stairs like cats and slip out unseen.
Except that we can’t. Not with the creaking of the stairs, which always alerts his clever little ears to our comings and goings.
He does not leave his apartment. He waits, doesn’t wait – is always just there. Ready, and wanting his due, whatever happens to be the thing we are doing or not doing that is simply and absolutely destroying everything in his world that day. Ready and then pouncing from behind that door, trapping us between his door and the door to the outside, which is always closed, muttering curses under his breath and shouting demands to the back of our heads like a deranged landlady from a Russian novel.
But not like.
My downstairs neighour is the deranged landlady from a Russian novel. He is as real as that. He is pulling it off, completely – the transformation utter and total. And he is bringing down the house with him, making it lose the charm it once held, making it, like him, a burden.
The word for this is elusive, but the word for this is also obvious – it is impressive.
Every day that we avoid meeting our landlady by the staircase is a success.
Tell me about it.