Thursday, April 3, 2008
The People Under the Stairs
I've lived in my increasingly expensive apartment complex for more years than I care to count. In my time here, I've seen tenants come and go. I've greeted them and smiled the "God, I don’t know your name so please don't talk to me because that would be kind of awkward" smile when we would see each other leaving or coming home from work or some other event that took them outside the confines of our mutual residence, but that was pretty much the extent of my interactions with them. Until I met Kristine, I'd never really taken any interest in my neighbors other than trying to find out if any of them were hot, because I was a whore like that.
Since we've been together, however, this has changed (especially the being a whore part, because that wouldn't mesh well with the whole "relationship" thingy). We've taken steps to interact with those neighbors who seem friendly, we've invited the children of neighbors into our home to play with our kids, and we've even left small gifts for neighbors on holidays. I'll have actual conversations with those I meet in the walkways because *GASP!*, I'll actually know their names now. There are some that we don't actually interact with, but do see on a semi regular basis through open windows, or from afar. Those are usually the ones we just end up giving a nickname like "the masturbator", "scary black lady", "crazy PETCO lady", "the one that's probably a stripper" (turned out she was a palates instructor, but I still think I was close), and "that bitch across the way that won't bring her yapping little jackass dog inside". We like to think of ourselves now as the welcoming committee that lives just above the poverty line.
But, you take the good with the bad.
There is one particular neighbor (isn't there always?) that has managed to crawl under our (mine and Kristine's) collective skin. It started out innocently enough, with casual meetings at night or afternoons when we would walk our Shih Tzu, Thor, and they would be walking theirs, Buttercup. Or as we now refer to her, "that smelly little manic depressive bitch". We'd have conversations about pet care, our professions (the husband was in insurance claims and the wife an office manager for her brother's kitchen cabinet company), families, and the like. The wife seemed a bit off, but we attributed that to the shit for brained spaziness of youth (she's only 23)We even went out to dinner together once, and actually had a good time. From that point, we maintained a casual relationship and promises of future get togethers. Hell, we even let them talk us into spending the weekend at their time share in Palm Desert and attending a time share presentation (yeah, yeah, I know so don't start with me).
Things kind of went down shit creek once she had her miscarriage. Shortly before the Palm Desert trip, she made the announcement that she was pregnant. Great news for them, but who goes to Palm Desert when they’re pregnant? Our forecast for that weekend had been good times with a high chance of getting wasted, so her being all preggo pretty much rained on that parade. Anyway, about a month or two after that, she miscarried her baby. Being a parent, I can understand that the thought of losing a child is number 1 on a parent's List of Nightmarishly Horrible Shit You Don't Want to Ever Have Happen. To actually have it happen to you is something I don't even want to entertain the thought of.
Now, for those of you that may or may not have children but may someday want them, I may be getting into a divisive issue. Once she had her miscarriage, she was understandably depressed for while. She just lost what would have been her first child. I have kids, two of them, so I get that. Understood. 10-4. Roger. Aye aye, Cap’n. If I'm not mistaken, it was about the size of a large potato when she lost it. Some features had formed, in particular the hands and feet. However, she took grieving to a whole other God damned level. Case in point: currently there are what must be over a dozen sonogram pictures covering their refrigerator. She even went so far as to create a shadow box of memories for it that is hung on her living room wall. Now, here is where I completely checked out of anything more than a "Hi, how are you" relationship with these folks. Contained in this shadow box are a couple of knick knacks pertaining to the fetus. The crown jewels in this piece of morbid memorabilia are the hand and foot prints of the fetus taken after it was removed. So, after losing the fetus, she deliberately had hand and feet prints of the fetus taken so she could keep them. Dead baby prints. Little curled up, claw like prints of the hands, and smudged prints of the curved, not quote formed feet. That's just 31 flavors of fucking creepy, okay?. Perhaps I'm too pragmatic, maybe I'm just an insensitive prick, but I believe there is an appropriate amount of time to grieve for the loss of a child or loved one, and then there is a point at which you enter into "Poor me" territory. It's no longer about you grieving over the loss of a loved one, instead your grieving becomes a tool by which you can elicit attention for yourself in a guilt free way. Who is going to call you out on your own bull when you're doing it all under the umbrella of your dead fetus' memory, right? Right.
Shortly after this, she quit her job and has begun various get rich quick, work from home schemes that have yet to produce any substantial income from what I can tell. Her first idea was to buy a pallet full of utter shit (on credit) and try to resell it at a ridiculous mark up. By "shit" I mean the kind of crap you would find at Big Lots, and cheaper. I'm talking about broken home decor, old Christmas decorations, candles, over sized clocks, you name it. All this stuff is strewn about their small apartment in some kind of haphazard "come view my wares, kind sir/madam" display. And they'll be paying for it for y-e-a-r-s. This was to be followed shortly by her current scheme: A line of hand made jewelry called Havannah's Jewels. Why Havannah? Because that was the name of her fetus. Oy.
How do we know about all of her get rich quick schemes? She won't stop telling us about them. She's asked for our help in designing, making, even marketing the crap she calls jewelry. She's invited Kristine on trips to stores to try to get them to sell her jewelry. She's asked us to host jewelry parties so she can foist her monstrously overpriced baubles on others. She's sent text messages at eleven o'clock at night asking us to come over and look at a design. The website for her crap looks like something thrown together in a junior college remedial web design class taught by Richard Simmons, with photographs from Headshots.
Now, here is what may be my biggest gripe: She seems to be content with getting whatever she can for free, whether it's borrowing various household supplies, asking for assistance, hell even asking us to watch her dog for three days so she can fly to New York to try and scam a store into selling her jewelry. All without as much as a "thank you". She even brought a friend of hers, who would be a complete stranger to us, into our home so said stranger could sell us candies in order to raise money for her fertilization procedure... what the motherfuck what?!
In the back of my mind I do feel sorry for whatever child they (the neighbors) do manage to bring into this world. It's enough that its mother is a nut case control freak, but to have to live in the shadow of its late sister/brother will be a tremendous burden. Who knew a fetus could cast such a huge shadow?
Throughout all this I watch her husband with a mix of pity and utter bewilderment. The poor guy seems to stoically trudge along, content to be the Atlas upon which the entire weight of her insane world rests. Dragged from one scheme to the next, with the detritus of past machinations littering his home, the clawed grip of the child that never was clamped firmly on the back of his neck he seems to be content with his role in things. I think I may be seeing some cracks in the armor, but that may just be out of my hope that he one day sits her down and talks some sense into her.
Until then, when I see them I'll smile and say "Hi, how are you?"