If you’ve known me at all in the past 3 years, you know that I have an incredible psychotic neighbor. She is an older woman (although she smokes every 5 minutes, so she may look 70 but actually be 45) and she lives with her son (who is probably like 30. so she’s definitely not 45) in the apartment next to mine. As in, we share a front porch. And our dining areas share a wall.
When we first moved in, my dad took the liberty of inviting her in so we could all meet. She seemed just like a nice, normal old woman. A little sad, but she said she’d lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, so it made sense. She was a long way from home and forced to live with her son.
Or so the story goes. Who knows the truth anymore?
It wasn’t until we’d lived there a few months before I started noticing strange things happening. Every time my child cried (which really wasn’t often, he wasn’t a baby by this time), her door would slam. Hard. And nobody would enter or exit her place.
Then, I started noticing that leaves were starting to pile up right in front of my door. I thought, maybe the wind is hitting them just right, so they blow to my side of the porch. No big deal.
Soon, it became apparent to both my then-current husband and my best friend that the neighbor was actually sweeping all the leaves onto my side of the porch. Seriously. One day, I even caught her. I heard a strange noise outside my front door, looked out the peephole and saw her standing there, kicking all of the leaves to my side.
I swung the door open, to both of our surprise, and asked her why she was doing that. She said she wasn’t. She lied. To my face. When I caught her doing it. It was the strangest thing. We ended up yelling at each other. I think I may have called her a crazy bitch and slammed the door in her face. I don’t really remember.
Well, things escalated from there. Suddenly, she was slamming her door all the time. For no reason. I actually saw her once, from the peephole (I was curious!), open the door and shut it. No. Reason. Then, I would be standing on our little patio and I would hear her mutter the most awful things.
White Trash. C-U-Next-Tuesday. Stupid Bitch.
Really, the second one is the one I was most offended by (obviously. I can’t even write it out because I hate the word so much). I hadn’t even really done anything!
On a particularly bad day, I was coming home and saw her standing on her patio, smoking her millionth cigarette of the day (no kidding, she only leaves the house to go buy more cigarettes. no other reason) and I just exploded. I started yelling at her for staring at my family (which she did all the time). I don’t even know what all I yelled. I think maybe I blacked out.
She yelled back. A good time was had by all.
This continued. It spiraled. She would slam her door, and I would slam mine right back. She’d stare at us as we entered or exited the apartment, and I would glare at her right back. Sometimes I’d even flip her off. I was pissed.
I was going through hard times. My husband and I were fighting more than ever. I was depressed. I wasn’t confident that I was being a very good mother. And knowing that angry, bitter woman was next door just seemed to magnify all of my bad thoughts. I pushed them on her, taking my anger out on her.
But don’t feel sorry for her. She’s not some “poor old woman displaced by Katrina.” No, no. I don’t believe for a second that she was anywhere near New Orleans during that time. I think she’s delusional.
Did I tell you that after I yelled at her for staring at my family, every time we would come home, she would turn around and start talking on an invisible cell phone? Yeah. Hand = empty. Then I would see the empty hand go up to her ear and she would turn away and start talking (Well, she’d just say, “yeah….yeah…” a lot).
There were a few more blow ups where we would start yelling at each other. But, eventually, it started to taper off. I knew I was taking my anger out on her. So I made a conscious decision to stop. Sure, she’s a crazy old lady who has been vicious to me for no reason, but I haven’t exactly been the model neighbor either.
There was this one time, though. I was sitting in my living room with the sliding glass door open because it was a nice day. Suddenly, I heard a crash and a scream came from her apartment. Without a thought, I dashed over there and started pounding on her door.
Marilyn! Marilyn; are you alright?
She opened the door a crack, peeked out at me and grumbled, “I’m fine.” Then closed the door in my (genuinely concerned) face.
It’s been months since we’ve said a word to each other. I still see her watching us every time we leave, and every time we come home. She stands there, either inside and standing right in front of the TV, or outside with her endless cigarette. And she is always watching. And the leaves are still piling up on my porch every autumn. And my front porch stinks of her cigarettes. And I feel her watching, even if she isn’t there.
When I’m inside my house, if the kiddo makes the slightest loud noise, no matter the time of day, I feel my entire body tense as I wait for her door to slam and my walls to shake. If I yell at the kiddo for doing something wrong, I panic that she is calling Child Protective Services and telling them I beat him senseless. If I am cleaning the kitchen and I tell the kiddo to go play in his room by himself for a little bit, I want to cry because she is thinking I am neglectful.
All those bad thoughts that every mother (or so I’m told) thinks about herself, I know she is thinking them of me. The negative voice in my head sounds strangely like her.
And I feel bad that I want her to go away. Far, far away. Where doctors and nurses can keep her medicated so she will never make another person feel the way she has made me feel.
And I haven’t even told you about the time she accused my husband of egging her door – when we don’t even keep eggs in the house. And by the next day, my door was covered in what I can only assume was the most disgusting lugies on the face of the planet. Or the time she yelled at my kiddo for playing on “her side” of the grass out front. Or the time we were coming home and she “shushed” the kiddo. When it was 4 in the afternoon. And he wasn’t even being that loud. Or the time she started yelling at the birds for being too noisy. Or when she was yelling at the cars for making too much noise.
Sometimes, when I’m having a really bad day and I find myself yelling at everyone and everything, I stop and think that I am turning into her. That her anger has permeated the air and is infecting me. This terrifies me so much, that I’ll immediately stop and apologize. Maybe living next door to such an angry and horrible woman is actually making me into a nicer and more pleasant person.
Because the worst future I can ever imagine is to grow up to be like her.