I’ve been doing apartment life for 4 years almost, in the same midsized building, midtown. There are 6 units on my floor. We’re in the one-bedroom unit directly across from the elevator. The walls that surround us are old and thick and concrete. They separate my life from my neighbours’ quite adequately. We live our lives within our 651 square feet, and they in theirs, very rarely crossing paths.
In the unit to my left lives a young family. They moved in a few months after we did, a dad, pregnant mom and toddling daughter. I’ve never once heard the baby cry. I haven’t seen the wife and children in at least a year now. Sometimes I see the dad in his van. Sometimes I hear his muffled voice float out their window, and in through mine when I’m trying to fall asleep.
The unit next to his is vacant. A nice French lady used to live there. We spoke to her a bit. Once our cat wandered into her apartment when she was cooking fish. Another time, we heard her calling an ambulance, when she’d lost control of her body and sight, and was lying helplessly in the hall. We rushed to help her the best we could before the ambulance took her away. She moved out sometime last year. I wonder where she went.
Now, I suspect a single mom and her young children live in that unit illegally. I saw them entering with a key while it was still in the early stages of renovation. I’ve seen her in the laundry room and in the garage too. She always seems a little shifty, like she has something to hide. She doesn’t smile back. She doesn’t know that I’m rooting for her. Even though I do wish she wouldn’t park so close to me.
Across the hall lives a man alone. I’ve seen him only once. He watches TV loudly, and goes, presumably to work, at around 12am. Someone parked in his parking spot once, and he blocked her in with his car. I heard them arguing in the hallway about it early on a Sunday morning. Harsh words were exchanged. He doesn’t seem friendly. Last week his fire alarm went off, and it kept ringing for a long time. When we knocked to make sure everything was okay, he turned it off, and that was that.
Down the far side of hall lives a young girl around my age. She’s pretty with rainbow coloured hair. I think she lives with her boyfriend too. They’re probably around my age. One time she knocked on my door, when we’d accidentally locked the cat in the hallway. He must have snuck out. I was so embarrassed. I told her we’re not neglectful. She didn’t seem to care. She seemed pretty cool.
The last unit is a mystery. We’ve never crossed paths with them. I know someone must live there because I’ve heard voices through the hallway wall. We share a balcony with them, separated only with a thin piece of plastic. Sometimes I’m curious to peak over and see who they are. Four years I’ve lived here, and they’ve lived there longer, and I have no idea what they look like.
I wonder if the people with whom I live in such close quarters know anything about me. Do they know I drive the white SUV in the garage? Did they notice I’ve had three cars in four years? Do they hear my cat whining when he brings us gifts? Do they hear him cry if he’s home alone? Have they heard our arguments through the walls? Have they heard our laughter? Our music?
It’s funny how apartments work in a big metropolis such as this. We share an address. We share a building. We share a floor. We all talk to the same building manager. We all ride the same elevator. We anonymously exchange books and miscellaneous items down in the communal laundry room. We get each other’s mail by mistake and leave it on the ledge.
For the whole first year I wondered if anyone else even lived in this 8 floor 47 unit building. Now we see more people, but still not many and not very often.
I wonder if they know I’m here. I wonder if they know I know they’re there.