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When Bad Neighbors Become Bad Habits

A home left in disarray with the door open?!

A home left in disarray with the door open?!

My husband and I don’t have many bad habits, but the ones we do have flirt with the extreme lines of quirky and insane. We’re the worst kind of conspiracy theorists. Creaky gates turn into elaborate ghost stories and passing black cats a debate on the realities of witchcraft. So when my husband and I moved into our apartment, we didn’t know we were meeting the characters that would inadvertently become players in our personal reality TV miniseries.

A neighbor most people would have discarded as pesky and somewhat absurd became a constant source of speculation and entertainment for our nightly walks. It started out with a woman (mom), a man (husband) and two children. They seemed wholly uninteresting. We knew only one thing about them: they lived below us. For the first month of us living at this apartment, we noticed the mom and husband at the pool frequently with the children. They would smoke and drink while the children swam. It was really nothing notable, but we noted it anyway. We saw these same 4 people, a mom, the husband, a daughter and a son coming and going from the apartment. Until one day things drastically changed.

The apartment below us became a point of high interest and confusion. Honestly, it could have all been on MTV. It would have probably been good television. We started to notice anywhere from 3-6 different men coming and going from the apartment during a given week. At first it was strange, then it just started to get bizarre. Was she cheating on her husband? Were we first-hand witnesses to prostitution? An affair? The possibilities were endless. But not nearly as endless as the string of men.

Sometimes there was more than one guy in a day. At night, the flavor of the day would hang by the pool with mom and her children, smoking and drinking. The children’s visits became increasingly sporadic and husband was losing his role as a lead character. The more sporadic the children’s visits became, the more chaotic they became. It was all one downward spiral. A visit from the kids was usually accompanied by loud screaming, crying, door slamming and other atrocities. It was really sad and kind of alarming, especially if you consider it from the child’s point of view. At this point, I think the show might have been canceled, but America just loves watching train wrecks too much and Tom and I aren’t above it either.

Eventually we dubbed this woman single mom, because we came to the startling conclusion that husband was just an extra on the show. Judge us if you will. Her behavior was erratic and usually outrageous. She parked frequently in a handicapped space directly in front of her apartment, even when the space just to the left was open. She returned home in the early morning when we were leaving for work, haggard, carrying coffee, stumbling.

One day, we came home to find her and a flavor of the day laying in a hammock they had strung between the pillars in front of our doors. They were drunkenly taking pictures on that Sunday afternoon. Tom went out the door to get something from his truck and they happily ignored him like they were in some Corona commercial. Dogs of different varieties and even cats came and went from the house. We’d hear random barking and crying for a few days and then it’d be gone again. Cast members didn’t last long on this show. We noticed a “type” emerge from the flavor of the day. He was white, bald, muscular, drove a truck, had tattoos and only stuck around for 3-5 days at the most. Some cast members we recurring, but none were permanent.

We began to surmise that she must have been a call girl or maybe a prostitute. Her habits didn’t indicate any kind of pattern, so we hoped that maybe she was just a waitress, but nothing suggested any kind of gainful employment. The only thing that was consistent was the influx of men and her desire to park in handicap spaces. In fact, our apartment eventually removed the handicap space closest to her door, so we figured that problem was solved. In an unbelievable turn of events, when that space was full she started parking in the handicap space directly across from the old one by the pool. The audacity was outstanding.

The last major character on the show was a man who drove a white Trailblazer who we named boyfriend. He was only dubbed this honorable and rare title after appearing on the miniseries for several weeks. No flavor of the days were detected during this time. Aside from her normal antics, things seemed to settle down. There were random cats, a random pit bull and intermittent visits from the children, but the white Trailblazer was a tried and true constant.

Like the American flag flying in the sky, you could count on boyfriend to be there. His truck hardly moved. He even did the dirty work in the relationship. One morning, around 10 AM, the apartment complex was busy repaving our parking spaces. It was a useless task they will likely later use to increase our rent, but that’s what they were doing. Everyone had obliged to their request to move our cars, as annoying as it was, expect one black Nissan Altima. It was hers.

The workers started banging on doors. When they quizzed me as to the owner of this pesky black Altima, I happily reported the owner by pointing to the door next to mine, wishing them luck. And luck they needed. 20 minutes of banging and then the manager had to come. They banged on windows, they banged on doors, they screamed management. It was enough to rouse everyone else in the building, but single mom and boyfriend were no where to be found. Finally, he appeared from the apartment, half asleep and in pajamas to move the car. Like honestly, what kind of drugs were these people taking?

Like all good things, the single mom saga had to come to an end. Our morbid fascination with the pure chaos and insanity with this woman’s life was left an open book. One night, Tom came inside and said the words I never thought I’d hear: “Single mom is moving.” It was a scene that we could have only come to expect from her. They were moving out at night in nothing less than a hurried fashion. We surmised they might be sneaking out. Our suspicions were confirmed.

Two days later I arrived home from work to find the door of her apartment wide open, giving me a front row seat the what was behind the doors. Spoiler alert, it was chaos. Every light in the home was on, things were scattered about as if the place had been ransaced. Children’s toys, pictures of her and her kids, cleaning supplies, random bags of trash all left behind. It was obvious she wasn’t expecting her deposit back. The door stayed open until the next morning, the contents of her life laid bare for all to see.

As for Tom and I, it was like reading a book with the last page ripped out. Why did she leave so quickly? Why did she leave behind all of her children’s things? Did she not pay her rent? Should we alert someone? In the end, the story began just as it started, with lots of assumptions and the burning thought that some things are better left to the unknown.