if i was a novelist...

If I was a novelist, my apartment would provide the best material.

After a month here, I have some good characters and good stories.

The first day we got to our place, we decided to give it a deep clean (it was sick). We stopped off at Ikea and Home Depot for a new mattress and sheets, cleaning supplies, and paint for the next day. That night, sweating from scrubbing some scum off the windows, we heard a knock on the door.

“Did someone just knock on our door?”

We opened our door to a lady in pajamas and a handkerchief wrapped around two buns on top of her head. 

“Sorry, to bother you,” she said, “I’m Karen (pseudonym).” She preceded to tell us how she’s lived in the building for 19 years and our landlord (who lives in Texas) asked her to come over and tell us about garbage, recycling, etc. We invited her in and had a lovely chat with her. She really seemed to know a lot about the building and we could tell, took deep pride in the fact that she was appointed a sort of Assistant to the Regional Landlord. She was the one who brought the garbage out to the sidewalk and organized it on Friday and Tuesday nights, so she wanted us to know how it works. It was very important. She shared a few restaurant recommendations with us and started to tell us about the other neighbors in the building. Rickie was the disabled man who lived upstairs with his caretaker, who we will call Dimitri, and about three times a week an ambulance comes to pick him up for dialysis. “So don’t be worried if you see EMT people helping him down the stairs. It’s normal!” At this moment, Dimitri, was coming down the stairs, and Karen quickly introduced us. He had the look of a young Soviet punk complete with shaved head and pasty skin; someone who you wouldn’t prefer to come across in a dark alley. He went downstairs and came back up with two Domino’s pizzas, and then we knew we could find some common ground with him. 

Karen said goodnight, and we went on with our cleaning.

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Garbage and recycling night finally arrived, and we were excited to bring out a bunch of crap accumulating in our place. Karen was already outside organizing the different types of trash into piles on the subway grates. She proceeded to doubt whether or not they would take some of the things we brought down (but we knew they would and did ha). She likes to have everything just so. Apparently our other neighbor, Carlos, had put a giant and heavy tv mount in the bottom of a trash bag because he “just doesn’t care.” Karen complained about him for a while and said the bag would’ve ripped if she didn’t notice it. We’re not sure she ever leaves the apartment except to make sure the garbage is acceptably sorted and packed. 

She’s like that girl in school who loved being the hall monitor and took it really seriously.

Early the next morning, we were getting ready to go out on a walk to the pastry shop we walk to every day, and our doorbell rang.

“I’ll go check who that is I guess.” And I went out into the hall and started to walk down the stairs. Karen opened her door just a crack. It was all dark behind her like she was just emerging from a gloomy cave. She was still in her bathrobe, her hair up in a handkerchief again. “Was the doorbell for you?” 

“I don’t know. I’m going to see who it is.”

“They rang my doorbell, too.” She said.

It was a guy coming to check the meters. Karen still was peaking out her door at the top of the stairs and started to yell at him. 

“You didn’t need to ring all the doorbells…where are meters usually? …In the basement, right? …So that means you would need to ring the bell of the person on the garden level …No don’t go back out again. You can get there from here…”

At this point, I let her take over because of her background and knowledge and went back inside the apartment. 

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A week went by, and we were out to dinner. We got a text from Karen asking if we were home. No, we were out to dinner.

“Tell me when you get home; there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Okay?? What tho?

I made Joe text back, “is it about the garbage?” Because it seemed to always be about that. She texted back “no *upside down smiley face*”

Wow. Interest piqued. Very scared.

Came home. She wanted us to call her and made sure it was on speaker phone so both of us could hear…

“So I think now would be a good time for you to email our landlord and ask for anything you want fixed because you just moved in. Also, if you guys drive to the grocery store, do you think I could tag along?”

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There have been a few texts about how to properly throw away the recycling in the meantime but laaaaaast night…

Joe and I were watching a movie (Horrible Bosses - yes it was horrible), and we heard some shouting outside. We have been keeping one window cracked because the radiator is so hot and heats our place to oven temperatures, so we heard Her voice easily. 

“Shhh pause the movie! Do you hear that?”

It was Karen on the front steps outside.

“That’s really obnoxious, you know…just idling there…it’s really loud. You’re an asshole….yeah I said it, you’re an ASSHOLE! If you don’t leave I’m going to call the cops.”

By this point we of course have turned off all the lights and crouched by the windows trying to get a look at who she could be possibly yelling at. Seemed an overreaction because we hadn’t heard anything before her shouting. 

Apparently there was a guy sitting in his running car outside our place, talking on his car’s speaker phone with the windows down. Yes, it was annoying, but still.

So then we heard her come back upstairs. And in the hall, I hear her loudly say,

“hello?”

And again, a little louder,

“HELLO?”

At first I thought she was calling out to us, but she would’ve knocked or texted. I was sure as heck not going to go out in the hall and ask.

We decided to text her. 

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First of all, what the heck?! That doesn’t make any sense. She definitely just lied to us. But for what reason? Also all the time she’s been texting us, she has been very careful with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. AAAAnd when she wants to do a smiley face, she uses an emoji, not this punctuation garbage.

SO of course our over active minds (mainly mine) thought, “this isn’t her texting us back. She was murdered!”

We decided not to text back because if we admitted that we overheard her actual conversation outside and in the hall, the killer (who was obviously texting with us) would think we knew too much and would kill us, too.

Smart. 

So we just went back to watching a movie. And we’re pretty sure everything is just fine. Phew.

Join me next time for Chronicles with Karen.