|Photo by Jason Kuffer|
A lot is riding on how normal that person is. Normal meaning, specifically, tolerant. I consider intolerant people to be highly abnormal. But that's just me. There's a lot about our household that requires tolerance. In fact, I gave birth to both of them.
We had one woman living downstairs from us for the past eight years. Her name was Mary, and as far as we could tell, she lived there by herself. Our building doesn't have the most solid construction, but despite the noise our two sons made, Mary never once came upstairs to complain. After five years of bouncing babies at our place, I was so moved by this restraint on her part -- what the hell, let's call it refusal to call the police -- that I made a batch of cookies and left them on her doorstep. It was Christmastime, and I wrapped them in green and red cellophane with a Santa greeting card tied to them with curly ribbon.
A few days went by. Every time I came home, I half expected to see a little note wedged next to my doorknob that said "Thanks for the cookies!" But none came.
Christmas came and went. No note. I started to wonder what this meant. Did Mary secretly resent us, hate us more than a thousand fire-spewing suns? Had Mary fed our cookies to her cat? Did Mary have a cat? Was Mary Jewish and was actually offended by the green and red color scheme, not to mention the Santa card? Damn. I was always messing that one up.
I started stopping the elevator on the 2nd floor, on the way down, so that the doors would open and I could peak out to see if Mary still lived there. She had a doormat with sunflowers on it. Every time the elevator doors opened, there was the doormat with the sunflowers. Still there. We also knew she still lived downstairs because sometimes her wireless signal would pop up on our computers: "MaryWireless73."
What do you think the "73" is for? I asked my husband one night. And he answered: It's probably the number of cats she has.
A breakthrough came when our shower started leaking into her bathroom below. She knocked on our door and when I opened she waved, up at the chin like shy people do, and said: "Hi. I'm Mary."
I had never met Mary in person. So this is Mary. I let her in. We discussed the shower. I apologized for the inconvenience and said I'd call my insurance company right away. But the whole time I wanted to ask her: "Did you ever get the cookies?" I didn't ask her. I honestly didn't know what footing I was on with her. My two sons - four and five years old at the time - tore past us into the living room, kicking a soccer ball. Sorry about that. Sheepish grin on me. Strained smiled on Mary. She said she remembered when they were born. Fantastic. Actually, I remember when the first one was born she said. Then the second one. As if there were some noticeable augmentation in the noise level. You've been busy I guess. I just kept giving her a sheepish grin because it seemed to cover all my bases.
The name of Mary was invoked often in our apartment since our first son was born seven years ago. Take off your shoes or you'll disturb Mary. Don't kick the ball, what if Mary's working. Be quiet in the morning, Mary could still be sleeping. My sons knew Mary. Mary va a enfadarse my husband used to chime in, after awhile not thinking. It just became the thing we said to get our kids to quiet down. Mary va a enfadarse. Mary will get mad. But Mary wasn't the type. With her endless capacity for forgiveness, Mary might even have been... Godly.
I thought about Mary while I watched the mustached moving men this morning, the rattan bookcase, the glass-topped table, the Ikea sleeper sofa. I wondered where Mary went. She never said goodbye, or even left a note. I wonder if Mary will remember us and miss us whenever she hears a little noise above her head. Wouldn't she have to? Maybe she's glad to be rid of us. I hate to think that, but I wouldn't blame her. I guess a batch of cookies wasn't really going to cut it.
Do you have neighbors you can hear upstairs or down? How are they? Any good noise stories to share?