We got some new neighbors recently.
I’m always excited at the prospect of new neighbors. To me, neighbors have always held the attractive possibility of Buddyism. Maybe they will be my new best friends! Maybe we will bake cookies together and talk about our favorite books. Maybe we will sit on the back patio after work everyday and sip mojitos and laugh about that crazy time when their cats found their way into our kitchen.
So far, this has not happened with any neighbor that I have ever had. The closest I’ve come is a tenuous familiarity with the elderly couple we share a wall with. I asked them if our music was too loud and they gave us a pint of raspberries. It was a beautiful moment.
When our upstairs neighbor moved out, I felt that familiar rush of hope. Maybe our new neighbors would love Doctor Who! Maybe they have seen every episode of My Little Ponies!
Maybe they collect action figures and will trade one of their Raphaels for one of my Michaelangelos.
When I saw a white BMW parked in their parking space I felt a shiver of excitement. I walked through my apartment, listening for any sign of them upstairs, every moment expecting to hear someone loudly proclaiming, “GOSH, I SURE DO LOVE NACHOS. I WONDER IF ANYBODY IN THIS APARTMENT COMPLEX LOVES NACHOS AS MUCH AS I DO.”
At which point I was prepared to climb up their deck and press my face against the sliding glass door and scream, “ME. I LOVE NACHOS. HANG OUT WITH MEEEE.”
There was silence for a long time.
And then some thumping.
And then some more thumping.
“I should go up and say hi,” I said to Taylor. “Introduce myself. Hold out the olive branch flag or whatever.”
Taylor eyed me over the top of his copy of Game Of Thrones.
“Don’t do that,” he said. “They’re just moving in. Give them some time.”
And then there was some more thumping, a large whump, and a sudden explosion of Chinese.
“Huh,” I said. “I guess they’re Chinese, then.”
“Uh-huh,” Taylor said, turning the page.
Over the next few days I kept trying to catch our new neighbors outside the apartment, but it never worked. They arrived home well after I did and in the mornings when I left for work, their apartment was silent and dark. At one point, a U-Haul pulled up and a small phalanx of Chinese boys bustled in an ant-line of boxes and garbage bags. I approached with a winning smile and tried to greet them.
“Hi, I’m Jessica, I live below you.”
Three of the boys looked at me in confused surprise. The last squinted and said, “Uhh, I do not live here.”
There has been no further contact.
For the next several nights, the thumping continued, increasing in volume every evening until we were sure they were doing something illegal upstairs. As soon as the boys arrived home, we’d hear spates of screamed Chinese, followed by a few crashes and the heavy thud of something flumping to the floor. Occasionally there would be scrapes and bursts of maniacal laughter that lasted well into the night.
Last Thursday, Taylor and I lay in bed at eleven and stared at the ceiling, as the upstairs neighbors wrestled bears and hammered 2×4’s.
“What do you think they’re doing?” I whispered. Taylor shook his head in the darkness.
“I just don’t know,” he replied gravely.
This was followed, upstairs, by three minutes of howled Chinese, the words, “FUCK YOU!” and then two more minutes of Chinese.
And then giggling and what I presume to be their refrigerator falling over.
So, okay. Instead of the next-door-besties I have always wanted we have The Stompers. The noise has been a bit annoying, but more tolerable, on the whole, than our previous neighbor’s vicious dog, the one that threatened to eat Taylor every time he went to water our herb garden.
It’s one part obnoxious, three parts deeply confusing. What can they be doing up there that makes all that noise? Wrestling? Woodworking? Rough sex? Listening to them every night we dismiss each possibility as crazy or impossible, but as soon as we decide that they’re just very loud walkers the moan of a sick rooster will echo through the complex and we’re forced to wonder if they have started a cock-fighting ring.
The other day we had a near-encounter with The Stompers. Taylor and I left to go to the county fair and as our rumbled over the speed bumps I looked back to see our neighbors filtering out of the stairwell, rubbing their eyes in the light. One motioned to the other and they began curiously inspecting the pavement. One brushed his fingers there and smelled it, as though he were Aragorn testing the soil for the movement of advancing Uruk-Hai. In unison, the three looked darkly at each other, and then up at Taylor and I as our car turned the corner.
I have no idea what is going on anymore.