Now that this hemisphere has tipped towards spring, a few rays of sun angle into the shaftway and light my cave on Atlantic Avenue, like Stonehenge. It’s a good little place, and though I scour craigslist for new apartments every day, I’ll miss it when the sublet runs out. The hum of Björn’s private server rack is comforting, and he is open-hearted enough to share his Linux root password with a strange sublessee. From the roof I can watch the ferries passing the Statue of Liberty.

Consuela lives downstairs. She is in her eighties, and though she was born and raised here, she speaks fluent Spanish. Even in English, she has a Veracruzeña accent. I find this very peculiar. Could my Brooklyn-raised sprogs speak a Limerick creole in 2090? I can barely maintain my own accent.

Consuela is the self-appointed building superintendent, and she likes to pop out in her nightie to scold passing residents. She squawks at me for carrying my bike up the broken stairs.
    “Be careful! You’ll ruin da walls!” It is not possible to damage to these rice-pudding walls aesthetically, but to oblige her (and avoid her) I now lock my bike to the parking meter downstairs. Two chains, front and back wheels, though Atlantic is safer than Limerick.

She runs some kind of numbers game, we think, because there is stream of visitors bearing slips of paper and dollar bills. When she gets bored, she screeches up the stairs.
    “Ana! Aaaaaa-na!” It sounds as though she has fallen and is horribly injured, especially late at night, but she just wants a chat. Eventually Ana shuffles out and leans over the bannister, and they gossip rapidly. The day I moved in (and Bjorn moved out) Ana was worried. “El guapo se fue?” she asked Tim. Yes, he told her, the cute guy was gone. She would have to make do with him now.

Also downstairs, directly below, is a mean and crazy pregnant lady, who has sent her sheepish husband up twice to complain about noise. I am not noisy, unless you count my CBC radio habit, and I go to bed early. She is four months from producing a creature that will howl endlessly, which is not a wise time to rile your neighbors with empty complaints. Nevertheless, the husband appears with embarrassed requests to maybe reduce the number of, uh, footfalls, because his wife is, you know, pregant and emotional. (I wear socks in the house as it is.) Poor fellow. I listen to Mario’s life upstairs through the thin floorboards, as he walks around, plays his video games, and chats to his girlfriend. Though his bathroom sometimes leaks into mine, I send him interfloor waves of neighborly love. For the mean and crazy pregnant lady below, though, I wish a thirty-six hour labor and a vacationing anesthesiologist. Latin Brooklyn turns my thoughts to revenge.

9 thoughts on “Neighbors”

  1. Careful what you wish for…bad karma may result. Might be better to wish for some kind of born again conversion into an angelic maternal creature with a wee little one emitting quiet tones of coos and gurgles.


  2. Hmm..I must also be critical. Until one feels the hormones flowing, baby growing, and has the need for frequent peeing one should proceed with caution and perhaps borrow her moccasins for a day or two for a walk about. Your sublet sounds like a marvelous place for a temporary camp. 🙂


  3. Being in the melting pot has caused you to lose part of your accent already. I see “neighbours” has become “neighbors.” That’s certainly not the correct spelling because everyone knows there’s always room for U in the neighboUrhood. Especially in Brooklyn.


  4. Those crazy apartment dwellers. Actually, similar life-sounds can be heard in my little cave of a dwelling on the Adriatic, but of course all of the yelling is in dialect-heavy Italian. Still–springtime is springtime, no matter where.


  5. Wow, it’s like you’ve just stepped into that Jim Sheridan film ‘In America’. Is there a mystic negro in the building too?


  6. It’s a pretty typical South Brooklyn small building. Two old Latinas and four white/Asian couples in their thirties. Every brownstone and apartment building in this area has the Brooklyn owners/long-term residents on the ground floors and the newly-arrived homesteading yuppies upstairs.

    This is a crankier building than I’m used to, but then again, I used to be able to afford better floorboards.


  7. You’ve just reminded me of what I most love about New York; just like London. It’s that reverse psychology for me, like when we were kids and we fancied one another -we showed it through being nasty.

    Nicely written – cool blog. Glad I discovered it – I’ve blogrolled you as it looks like I’ll be coming back.


  8. Naah, don’t wish her that, Dervala. Way too cruel a punishment for asking you to tread more lightly, as irrational and irritating as that may be. Labor’s serious business. Perhaps wish for the experience to teach the lady some forebearance… or for the birth of an angelically quiet babe.


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