Apartment living among strangers

Always something going on in my apartment complex. Yesterday while I was indoors roaming the internet peacefully there came a knock on my door. The police, again. They were trying to get my next-door neighbor to open up, having been called by his son and asked to conduct a wellness check. In other words, the man’s son was worried about his safety and wanted the cops to look in on him. So, they had tried knocking on his door and received no answer, then knocked on mine to ask if I knew the man. Said I didn’t. Actually don’t even know what the guy looks like. Told them that we have such a high turnover rate here, particularly in that apartment, to where I just don’t barely keep up with who moves in or out. (People have to stick around here for several months or a year before I take much notice of them — perhaps sad, but true.)

While speaking to the police the man next door did answer. He barely got his door open before falling with a loud thud. Sounded rough. Like maybe he hit his head. The cops were talking with him, asking if he could hear them. Another neighbor opened his door and we both exchanged looks at one another while listening to what transpired. I could hear the fallen man making a sort of groaning/wheezing noise. No clue what was wrong with him or what led to his condition. Decided instead to head out to my next work appointment before the ambulance arrived and blocked our driveway.

Sound crass on my part? Welcome to the modern world, folks. Tis the age where many of us do not know our neighbors nor barely care to. Though, in our defense, the lady across the hall who’s lived here a couple years did knock the night before to offer me a bowl of her homemade chicken noodle soup — wasn’t half bad. And I do offer food and cosmetic items to another lady who lives upstairs. The man who lived directly beneath me was sociable but recently moved (they always do), as did the couple downstairs whom I’d grown to like quite a bit. Besides an old lady down the hall, I’m now officially the longest lasting tenant in this joint, approaching the 10 year mark this winter. But out of 30 units, I know people in maybe 5 of them at this point. Maybe.

This place is like a revolving door. Always people moving in and moving out. Half the time you don’t even find out they’ve moved until a couple weeks have gone by. The herd of buffalo who lived above are gone, which only dawned on me after belatedly realizing it’s pretty quiet around here. No clue how long they had been gone before I awoke to that realization.

Our parking lot is filled with all sorts of people who are always coming and going, some who live here, some who are just picking up people who do, a couple others who seem to be up to shady shit out by our dumpster (not curious enough to investigate — maybe sex in their cars?).

As I tell people, this place is much nicer than when I first moved in. Out with the meth heads, in with the Mexicans and Africans. A better lot of people overall. Though, I wasn’t a fan of seeing women’s panties hanging off the satellite dishes, nor was I enthused about finding a used condom left near my door. But we haven’t caught people fucking in the stairway anymore, so that’s a bonus. And the rowdy kids who lived here last summer (one of whom was responsible for busting out my car’s rear windshield accidentally) are all gone.

Could be worse, could be better. I don’t mind living here. Cheap rent. Not too much bullshit usually. Though it wasn’t that long ago when the cops were knocking on my door asking about a couple who abandoned their van in our parking lot and presumably ran into our building. Showed me pictures of them — no clue who they were. Doubt they live here but I wouldn’t be able to say for certain. The cops roamed around our building for a couple hours that night, searching the periphery with their flashlights (searching for what, I do not know) while waiting for the tow truck to come remove their van.

Several months ago we had another joker abandon a vehicle in our parking lot and take off on foot. Not sure why they like to do that here. *shrugs*  All I know is I went out to my car to grab something and while out there I see his van roll up, the driver’s door opened and a short black (presumably African) man stared at me before bolting out of it and running toward a nearby street. His van slowly descended toward the rear of our parking lot, narrowly missing the dumpster before coming to a stop. I had to call the cops on that event so as to report the running, abandoned vehicle that needed to be towed. Perhaps because of calls like that in the past is why the cops like to keep knocking on my door nowadays. Not sure.

Not that I mind. The cops around here are a pretty friendly bunch. They don’t scream at us the way Omaha and Mississippi cops used to. Very professional and helpful overall. These ones around here don’t seem to have much of an axe to grind, though some of the locals like to chide them all the same, pretending as if the police here are horrible about violating our rights and behaving as racists. I’m not seeing it, even while living in such a diverse building as I do. You’d think if they were wanting to pick on people of color they’d hang around here more often and act like jerks while here, but they don’t. So I see no reason to give them guff.

Gotta appreciate the good ones where you find them.

Anyway, no clue what happened to the old man next door. Never did get a good look at him either. Maybe I was skittish over the ordeal due to all we went through 4 years ago when the older man across the hall drank himself to death. Was a pretty unnerving situation that I’ve yet to stop thinking about. Basically just holed up in his apartment and quit eating and decided to drink vodka until he died, resulting in his body being effectively mummified. That is, until his body was moved by the paramedics/the guys in hazmat suits. I wasn’t around to witness that day, but a neighbor who’s since moved away told me everything. She was very shaken by the ordeal and had been worrying about him for many days before the landlord finally went inside the apartment to check. His name was Sam. I had dinner with Sam once, not too terribly long before he died. Never had a problem with the man and let my cat go over to hang out with him occasionally.

Anyway, I know I’ve written about him on here before, but I suppose it’s hard not to think about him when the cops show up in the hallway. It was a sad situation that most of us aren’t sure how we should’ve handled differently. I interacted with him more than I did with most neighbors here at that time (and more than I have with others since). His family didn’t come by to visit him, and I know he seemed upset about a lot of things, most of which I don’t know the details of. I was mired in my own personal drama back then and was pretty depressed, so it was just a rough time all the way around up in this corner of the building. But I didn’t realize he was that depressed. How would I though? People who pass one another every few days on the stoop.

The man right next door has been there maybe a month (or has it been two?). I never see him coming or going. Never hear anything from his apartment. Kind of sad to think that I was sitting here yesterday, probably no more than 30 feet away on the other side of a wall from a man who was in a bad way. Had no idea. Wouldn’t have known either had his son not reached out to the police and requested that they check in on him. Perhaps we’ll eventually see him come and go and get a chance to speak in the future.

So, yeah, that’s what people have to look forward to when living in apartments in the city around folks they do not know, especially where low-income persons congregate for a few months or a year and then move on to the next place. Just a constant trickle of people in and out. Here one month, gone the next. Breaking leases and taking off. A couple deaths. Listening to indistinct beats of music drumming in through an open window — location unknown. See so many faces one time and then never again. The routine scent of weed wafting through the hallways. This is just a place for us to lay our heads, store our stuff, rest and relax when we’re not working. Maybe everywhere is becoming this way.

Guess I’m just reflecting on my answer to the cop about the man next door, not knowing for certain when he moved in or what he looked like. And I wouldn’t have even thought about it if not asked.

I’m not convinced that we humans can all adapt to this sort of atomized style of living. I can understand why it proves so depressing to plenty out there, especially if they lack family and a strong social network. Especially in the winter months when we’re trapped indoors. But, strangely enough, I seem to be adapting, albeit not in the most pro-social way admittedly. Guess I ought to keep an eye on this situation and how it may be impacting me and my other neighbors. Kind of disconcerting to think we may be witnessing the full-on erosion of any sense of community right here in a place like this. Close proximity alone doesn’t necessarily bring people together—barring an emergency—not when walls and locked doors exist where we can retreat into our own individually-stocked cubbyholes.

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