Writing can be therapeutic. That's obvious to anyone who's ever written a letter to someone and then burned it, or to be more in line with modern times: written an email and deleted it.
My neighbors used to really annoy me. To the point where rage burned like a furnace from my core and I became an explosive, scary person. If you know me, that is counter to my identity.
I wrote this to deal with my feelings toward my neighbors. Afterwards, I felt much better.
“The quiet ones are the ones you need to watch out for.” The scoffs I’ve emitted upon hearing this could fill an auditorium. The Scoff Chorus it would be called. The gentlemen and gentlewomen dressed in their finest would applause at the avante-garde performance piece, scoffs punctuating the beats of popular music sung by a children’s choir. An older woman in a bejeweled pashmina wipes a tear from her eye and remarks to her sleeping husband that she “never knew Party in the U.S.A could have so much depth.”
I am One of the Quiet Ones, and have never felt the need to be watched, and no one has ever watched me. It’s not as if I was some feral child who made their bed in a ditch, coming out in the night to feast, but I was as unwatched as it went. I am an American Child of the Early 1990s, a title which suggests much more regality than existed via processed cheese and enriched white wheat flour and hours of television, all unsupervised. When I view the lives of Americans from the eyes of people in developing countries, there is much majesty in it, children living like kings, demanding the serfs that are their parents for neon-colored treats from the (a)Isles of Kroger.
Someone behind me says, “The quiet ones are the ones you need to watch out for,” and I utter one of my scoffs as I pour coffee into my eighty-dollar temperature-controlled mug.
“You don’t believe that?” this person says. I turn around. It’s an older gentleman named Ken, dressed in a tightly-checkered shirt tucked into a pair of pants with a color brown that only ever existed in the seventies. As One of the Quiet Ones, I play my role and instead of saying a word, I shrug, and saunter off to my desk.
I’m the youngest person in the office by years, another role I cherish dearly. The forty-somethings and fifty-somethings will stop at my desk and tell me about some comedian they found on Netflix, or casually mention that they heard a Lady Gaga song on the radio and liked it. The most I have to say is, “Oh, really?” or “I’ll have to check that out.” As One of the Quiet Ones, I have no opinions. At least not here I don’t.
I am something like a vampire, only instead of a coffin, I sit under fluorescent lights for hours at a time, until the evening, when I go home and shed my Office Drag and slip into something more comfortable, which is usually nothing. I ask Alexa to play some indie-pop and she obliges, and I dance around and check myself out in the mirror far too often. I keep my music at a tolerable level (as One of the Quiet Ones that is my duty), yet my upstairs neighbors seem unable to imagine a world in which they aren’t the only people who exist, and scoff via scuffs and drags of their furniture on tile flooring.
Maybe it’s the late-afternoon temperature-controlled coffee, but their last brdrrrrrp (what I imagine is a five-hundred pound solid oak wardrobe being dragged upon their floor as the result of obsessive redecorating), results in my heart jumping into my throat. My nerves are firing like cannons throughout my body and I begin to shake.
“What is wrong with you!” I scream, which results in another drag across the floor. I’ve lived in my apartment for over a year, and I’ve never had a single conversation with my neighbors that wasn’t done via drags of furniture and exasperated shrieks. Perhaps it’s time to change that. I walk to my closet and look for the perfect First Impression Outfit, something that says, “I’m better than you.” I settle on a pair of ultra-black slacks and a button-down shirt I bought at Marshall’s five years ago. I slide my un-socked feet into a pair of sneakers and walk to my front door, which I open, then slam heartily closed behind me. What am I going to say? What am I going to say? This is the only thought that is alive in my mind.
My feet pound on the stairs as I travel upwards into the Land of Terrible Neighbors, and I’m shaking my head fiercely. When I make it to the front of their door, my heart slows down and my vision zooms out. It is Their Door. What do They look like? I’ve never given it much thought. To me, they have always only been Amorphous Beasts, completely inhuman.
I reach out and knock on their door. Another furniture drag. My ears ring.
The door opens in front of me and in front of me is a muscular man in a wife-beater and saggy sweatpants. “Can I help you?” he says in a flat, harsh tone. My heart stops for a moment and my mouth goes dry. I clasp my lips together and swallow.
“My name is Casper and I’m with the Wildlife Conservation Fund, I’m wondering if I can have a moment of your time-”
“Fuck off,” he says, and the door has replaced him. I breathe out deeply and walk slowly back down the stairs, back to my apartment. My nerves are still rattled, my body is shaking, and I have to balance myself by grasping the handrail every few steps. I open my door, slide inside, and close it shut, then lock it.
I walk over to my desk and open my computer. I open up my email and find the address of the property manager and begin to type.
I am writing to complain about the noise…
As One of the Quiet Ones, what more is there for me to do?