Whether you’ve lived in New York for one year or 50, you will have encountered at various points the phenomenon of the New York City neighbor, that extending to anyone who lives next door, next door-next door, on the other side, upstairs, downstairs, somewhere mysteriously ensconced in the deepest confines of your building and forever untraceable, and yet, still, you can hear them talking!, outside your window and in the next apartment over, and so on. We are a city. You are surrounded by people, and that is true even when you’re at home — in bed, making dinner, eating an old, cold bowl of macaroni on the couch, doing yoga, or tending to your Chia Pet. You are surrounded. Following is a list of 15 people you may experience living next to, at some point or another, during your stay here. This is by no means conclusive. We are all originals.
15. The Sexually Open. These folks don’t care if you hear them doing whatever it is they’re doing — maybe they even like it! And, oh, how frequently they do it seems to buttress (heh) that fact. Maybe it’s a couple, maybe it’s a single person with a lot of friends. You don’t know, you don’t WANT to know. But you do. You hear them at the most inopportune moments, like when Granny comes over for tea and brings her famous homemade crumpets and when on the phone for an important work call with some nuns, or when you’re just desperately trying to go the fuck to sleep. Sometimes you bang the ceiling with a broom, but that only arouses them further. (Buy earplugs — they help a little, though not with “vibrations.”)
14. The People With Incurable Dropsy. We realize that dropsy is actually not an ailment that makes you drop things, but for these purposes, today, it is. You know them well, these addled spirits, because THEY MAKE YOU KNOW THEM. They tend to drop things at night, or during particularly scary movies, probably on purpose. They may even have a small hole drilled into their floor to check for the special moment you’re least expecting the noise of a bowling ball to plummet atop your head, and do it then. They love surprises! We would feel sorry for them, imagining their harrowing lives in which nothing stays in their hands — a true disability, that — but we hate them too, too much.
13. The Note Leaver. He comes in varieties passive-aggressive and aggressive-aggressive. He might say — no, not say, he does not talk, nor does he let you know if he is indeed a he — he might write something along the lines of, “Howdy, neighbor there. You probably have no idea that when you smoke your high-end marijuana right downstairs from me on your open patio and screech like inane ninnies, I can hear you! I’m sure you won’t mind taking it inside at night, now that you know.” Or he might write, “What is wrong with you if you don’t shut up I’m going to call the cops MOTHER FUCKERS.” Either way, you’ll never be friends.
12. The International Emotional-Breakdown-Haver. This person is quiet as a mouse during the daytime, and you never see her, but around 3 a.m., when you are fast asleep, you will be awoken by a piercing scream, pounding upon walls, crashing noises, and weeping. You will hear whoever it is on the speaker phone shushing her in murmuring, accented tones, trying to calm her. It is 8 a.m. in London, or 3 p.m. in Singapore, or 9 a.m. in Tel Aviv, and she is as homesick and/or lovelorn as your walls are thin. The only thing you can do is hope she moves, and hopefully not upstairs.
11. The Children. You can’t blame them for being there, but you can blame their parents, particularly if they allow them to play baseball in the hallways because the apartments aren’t big enough. Still, when one of them knocks on your door and asks you for something to drink, you are not so heartless that you don’t give it to him. Only later do you wonder if it was such a good idea to let a little kid into your apartment, or to give him the week-old Cabernet that was the only thing you had in your fridge.
10. The Old Lady with Supersonic Hearing. How does she do it? The stooping old gal with the sporty walker manages to hear everything, even things you, with your relatively youthful ears, can’t hear, even things your dog can’t hear. Despite the walker, she comes up regularly, feistily, to knock on your door and ask you to put baby powder in between the cracks in your floorboards, “to staunch the sound.” When that doesn’t work, she asks you to move. (You pretend not to hear her.)
9. The Hot Guy/Girl You See on the Day You Move In and Never See Again. Ships passing in the night, as it were. Luckily, lest you get into a #2 (see below) sort of situation.
8. The Person With Institutional Knowledge. This winsome fellow knows that a guy died in the elevator in the ’70s and nobody noticed it for three whole days because everyone was high on drugs in the ’70s in your apartment building. He also used to throw parties in the garden of his apartment, which, by the way, has a Koi pond and some very well-maintained plants and trees — but he thinks everyone who lives in the building is kind of an asshole now, he tells you when he comes up to your apartment to introduce himself (he may be right). Later you hear him telling the cops someone’s movers threatened him with their box cutters. See also: the Loose Cannon.
7. The Sweet Old Man. You never speak to him except to nod, politely, when you pass each other outside, and he always doffs his cap, and you smile. You know him not at all, and when you find out he has died, you feel an unmistakeable sense of loss.
6. The Loose Cannon. You just don’t know with this one, which is pretty much always how it shakes out in New York City, whether you live in a luxury building or a run-down former paper factory that’s been converted to so-called artist’s lofts. This person might, say, fall asleep in their bed while hopped up on pain meds and smoking a cigarette, and burn the whole place down. This person might run a meth lab, just for kicks. This person might leave all sorts of freebies outside, like creepy dollheads and tantric sex books and ancient, hideous pottery, and then yell at you when you take them. Or, this person might let you in one day when you’re about to pee your pants and your key’s not working. You never know!
5. The Working Girls. True story: This blogger’s first apartment in New York City was next to a full-on bordello. They were lovely ladies, really, but then the cops broke down their door with a battering ram and sealed off the place, and we realized that their pimp really did wash quite a lot of sheets in that shared washer downstairs. Ew.
4. The Absentee Neighbor. You’ve never seen or heard this person. You’re not even sure they exist. Yet, Fed Ex delivered a package for them days ago and buzzed your door, and you didn’t know what to do so you accepted it, and now it’s sitting in your hallway, and could it be a bomb, or drugs, or a disembodied head? You decide to Google the name on the package and find out it is someone who, actually, through other people you sort of might know, and then it’s even more awkward. You wait for them to come home, thinking, should I leave a note? Is it weird to leave a note? And you don’t, but when they finally come home at midnight on a Friday it’s too late to deliver it and you’re wearing your pajamas, and the next morning first thing they knock on your door and look at you expectantly and you know they think you stole it. Which you didn’t. Damn Fed Ex.
3. The Patio Shmucks. Don’t hate these people because they have a patio. Hate them because they use it at 3 a.m., and their dog barks constantly, and their pot smells like a skunk, even though you’ve grown used to it at this point, and maybe even sort of like the scent, and the sound of the dog barking. After all, it’s home.
2. The Next-Door Neighbor You Accidentally Befriend in a Moment of Drunkenness and Later Have to Cope With Him/Her Knocking on Your Doors, Wanting to Have Martinis, Borrowing Toilet Bowl Cleaner, and, When He/She Moves Out, Gifting You a Hideous Rug. (There is a reason it is best not to meet your neighbors.)
1. The Mouse. Literally, not figuratively. Where there is one, there is many, but we’re only counting them as one because we’re in denial. Which you pretty much have to be to live among all these crazies.