I’ve lived in a garage, a dormitory, a screened-in porch, and more than one basement. I’ve owned three houses. After my divorce and the divestiture of common property, I moved into a small second-floor apartment in a large complex of handsome brick buildings originally used as military family housing. Here, we have hardwood floors, tiny kitchens, big trees, lousy wiring.
Hardly anyone in the complex draws their curtains. I walk my dog in the evening, and behind the disguise of his slow rooting in the shrubbery, I get brief, cropped shots of other lives. A deer head with an impressive rack mounted on a wall painted navy blue. Two women at a dining table, heads close. A father drilling his kids in calisthenics, barking like a sergeant. A man practicing piano, the faint, rapid scales barely audible through the glass. A young couple, so unformed they seem to be made of putty, pushing a pair of Chihuahuas in a baby stroller down the walk. A dour woman sitting on the steps of the building where I get my mail, smoking. She refuses to move so I can enter; her profound distaste for the world seems immutable, genetic.
Below me, in #2, a couple approaches punk’s middle age: she has ropy dreadlocks, and he has a ropy beard, and both have a lot of ink. Through the windows, I can see the Tibetan prayer flags, the bicycles, the aquarium. Sometimes I hear hammering below, and their bulldog yaps every time I pass the door. In six years as neighbors, we have learned each other’s names and exchange occasional comments about the weather. Once I helped them jump their car battery, but I have never been in their apartment. When our basement storage units are broken into, I wake them up early in the morning with the news. It is a voyeur’s dream come true, the storage units open, spilling out contents: A dishwasher. Bicycles. An artificial Christmas tree. Dog crate. Old skis. An antique mirror. We pad around the mess in our pajamas, in our sudden, brief intimacy, sorting out what is theirs and what is mine. And what is mine to know. Read More