Pamela Harris

Neighbors March 12, 2013

Yesterday Joe came in from Opal's first walk around 6:45 a.m. "Number 2 is getting laid," he said. Our building only has 4 apartments to a floor and we pass all of them multiple times a day. Number 2 recently got new tenants - 2 women and a guy - and this was something we hadn't heard coming from there yet. The women are big partiers and I hear glasses clinking and slurred laughing most nights I pass their door. The guy is a pothead, or my guess says it's the guy since we never see or hear him and only smell pot when the apartment is silent. Whenever we walk the dog past the second floor she wags her tail at the sounds of fun but this morning she cocked her head, confused. "I thought Opal let out a weird bark then realized it was a female, moaning."

The front door in that apartment line opens in the kitchen so I figured she was having kitchen table sex. Maybe stove sex. This apartment has a super high rent and super high turnover, so we never get to know who lives here.

Opal's favorite dog in the world lives on the same floor two doors over. Relic, a 100-pound 9 month-old Rottweiller, is owned by a gay couple and of everyone in the building we're the friendliest with them. They're ready for Number 2 to move out. For them, today would be nice.

The next floor up houses mostly professionals who leave early in the morning and come home in the evening with dry cleaning. There's a Maltese named Hercules who lives above Number 2, but Hercules doesn't get long walks so we don't see him much. This floor used to be the home of a star chef on the rise who was also a pot dealer. He couldn't keep a job and eventually bottomed out. He moved home to his mother's and got clean and now runs a restaurant in Chicago. Though we never met while he lived here, I know all this because we ended up meeting through mutual friends. We're now Facebook friends.

The next floor has a Miniature Australian Shephard owned by a fashionable Aussie who travels a lot. She has a 7 y.o. son and until recently she had an English manny. Who may have been her ball buddy. That's me making that up and not just because they looked good together. Whatever it was it's kaput since the manny is gone and a babysitter/dog walker with a great looking pocketbook is now in.

Up a flight is Duke, a rescue adopted 7 years ago when his 83 y.o. owner became widowed. Duke vacuums the streets while walking and yesterday scored a bagel, a slice of pizza and a mitten. He also knows what doormen give out treats and when his owner takes him swimming in a hotel in Tribeca Duke drags her doorman to doorman as they make their way to the pool.

Our floor has Opal's other favorite dog, Bowser, a Boxer/mutt blend who is also a rescue. Before Bowser and owner moved in the apartment was a brothel, or where pros would take their clients. This arrangement was short lived since within a month the whole building knew what was up with the 6 ft. glamour girls and their 5 ft. dates and someone complained. Like the tenants before them, they disappeared overnight.

The tenants before them were two runway models, a male and female. Both were gorgeous and I'd catch glimpses of them coming and going during fashion week. The rest of the year I'd never see them and figured they were away walking a runway somewhere. The super must have thought the same thing because he went into their apartment one day to check a leak and there they were in bed, freebasing heroin. A day later they were gone.

The apartment next to them used to house two men, one of whom was a big EDM DJ. Late one night the DJ knocked on my door and I when I opened it he calmly stood there wearing two sleeves of tattoos and a skimpy red metallic thong. "Will you call the police?" he asked. Behind him his boyfriend was casually throwing crate after crate of albums down the stairs, along with bits of clothing and a bong. Mirroring his calm I said "I'll call the police for you," and reached for my phone. He was high, his eyes looked dreamy and there was no urgency, no sign of physical fighting. He thought about it for a few moments and his eyes focused a little. "No," he said. "I don't think I want you to." Shortly after both moved out.

The neighbor I remember most was a white 20-something guy who lived across the street from me when I lived around the corner. I had a loft on Wooster Street and my studio and bedroom looked into his floor-thru apartment. Or really, the front half of his floor-thru. (A floor-thru runs from the front of the building to the back.) If I left my apartment, walked down hall and around the corner to the elevator, I could look into the back half, which I did when I came and went.

I first noticed the apartment because three of the windows in the living room/bedroom had the backs of large stretched canvases leaning against them. They never moved nor were any added to the pile. Next to them was a tv and at night I could see it glow. All of this faced a bed, where most days and nights this 20-something good looking guy laid either on the phone, eating or watching tv. He'd get high, too, but I couldn't tell what he was smoking. He'd sometimes get off the bed and disappear down the hall where there was a bathroom, and if he continued walking down the hall, which I never saw him do, he'd enter his kitchen. Waiting for the elevator, this is the room I looked into.

One day I saw a beautiful black woman about his age wearing nothing but rubber gloves doing dishes at the sink. I had seen her around the neighborhood; she had an afro-style head of hair and was at least 6 ft. tall. Over a few months only once did I see her in the bedroom with him watching tv. Most of the time she was compulsively cleaning the kitchen, always in rubber gloves, her eyes dreaming away.

This was how it went for a while then I saw new movement in the bedroom. I went to the window and there he was getting it on with a man. Hmmm, what happened to the girlfriend? The kitchen was spotless and a few days later she was back, scrubbing away. Did she know? Did she care?

A week later I saw more movement, but this time the apartment was crowded. I put my brush down and went to the window and saw police, maybe five of them. They were circling something on the floor and I couldn't see what it was. Or who it was. A few hours later a coroner's van showed. Though I looked into his windows for days after I never saw him.

My neighbor had died and I didn't know how. The apartment started getting emptied and what was left was a beautiful, richly upholstered custom white loveseat. I obsessed for a day over that loveseat - a guy died, but damn I want that - and then two top of the line Mercedes pulled up. His girlfriend got out of the back seat of one and what could only be his parents got out of the other. All were dressed impeccably, Greenwich Connecticut-style and they went up into the apartment. His girlfriend came out with a sheath of drawings and waited awkwardly by the car and it struck me how final death is. His parents came out empty-handed and as I watched the cars drive away I felt that even though I never knew him, in a way I knew him well.

There was an old kook who roamed the neighborhood and if you gave him a dollar he'd tell you anything you wanted to know. I saw him ambling up Wooster Street and ran out with a buck. I stopped him and pointed up to my neighbor's windows. "About a month ago someone died up there. Know anything about it?"

He waited for the dollar and I gave it to him. "Choked to death," he said. "Puked, and choked."

My neighbor had OD'd. I felt awful, sad, his parents would never understand and his girlfriend would move on. She must have, since I didn't see her for a whole decade. Then one day there she was, around the corner, homeless on the street. She was still a beauty, but her eyes were dead. The next day I went back to where I saw her and she was gone. I never saw her again.

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