My Downstairs Neighbors

I have been standing at the stove for some 20 minutes, staring out the window. What I am cooking, I don’t even know, and it probably doesn’t matter..
The upright piano was leaning on the ramp of the Uhaul. Next to it, the small, dark haired female sat, feet over the side of the truck bed, elbows on knees, chin in hands. To the other side, a tall man with shaggy hair, hands on knees looking defeated. They have been attempting, single handedly, to push the baby grand piano up the ramp into the Uhaul..
Maybe it started when I first walked past their front door. Right as I approached to pass, it opened and I was immediately engulfed in a cloud of weed smoke. My nostrils burned and my eyes began to water. After that, I noticed the same concentrated stench would creep through the vents and in the open windows of my apartment like The Fog. The worst being in my bathroom, so strong was the smell that my guests often suspected me of taking up the drug for recreational purposes.
Too often the ghostly odour was accompanied by the most extreme lung hacking from downstairs. So weak was the insulation between our apartments, I could often be woken from slumber by the coughing fits. The lung hacking was then always followed by the thick sounds of vomiting.
My glorious Sunday mornings, languidly waking to a fresh new day, suddenly interrupted by the hack hack hack, puuuuuuuuke from downstairs.
But I think worse than that, was the music. Nearly always poorly played, electric toned keyboard music. And though it could be done, I struggled to pull a familiar tune from the clash of notes played. Never once did I hear any notes played on the very real piano I had no idea they were in possession of.
Occasionally at night, as I would just be settling into bed, I could suddenly hear off key singing from directly below me. As though in an attempt to haunt me from my well deserved slumber. The singing was usually accompanied by their joint giggling.
The brief respites came when they would play tasteful, easy jazz on the stereo. From Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald type tunes for hours on end. But nightmare became reality when they began what sounded like the beginnings of a garage band. No sooner would I return home from a hard day of work, that the click click click, of the drum sticks would start.
Thankfully this phase did not last long..
And oddly, I recall a radio story I had once heard about a woman so wildly enthralled and equally appalled by her new neighbors across the street. Unabashedly, open curtain type neighbors. They had pushed their bed up against the window. She couldn’t believe it, and yet, she couldn’t stop watching them. She became a member of their lives via her obsessive voyeurism. Them being intimate, them eating breakfast together, everything. They were young, and beautiful, and in love.
Then one day she realized she hadn’t seen them in a while. Then when they came back, they looked very different. The woman looked heavier, the man thinner, weaker. He was bald. It took them a while to realize this was the same young, beautiful couple as before. The bed that had been pushed against the window, was replaced by a hospital bed.
It is strange how your first impressions can be one thing, when all the while there is a different story playing out in real life.
And for a moment, I can see it..
A young woman who grew up wanting to create music. A young man, in love, follows her to music school. They pack up grandma’s baby grand piano and the keyboard she’s had since childhood, and move to a small, 1 bedroom, downstairs apartment close to campus. Close enough for her to walk to school each morning, and back each afternoon.
It is difficult studies, but she works hard. Mornings he is left alone. He wakes with horrible nausea. The only thing that settles him is marijuana. He smokes it until he is taken by severe coughing fits. He coughs so hard some mornings he eventually vomits. He smokes religiously to feel stable. Until she returns home to tell him about her day, to play him the music she is studying in class.
Most days he feels strong, young. But when he has had a really hard day, she will sing him to bed. She sings off key, but he still loves it.
This is not the real story. They are simply weed smoking college kids. Each day I would exit my car next to theirs. Inside dangled old concert passes from the rear view mirror, the cup holder with its never changing large soda cup from Sarku, full of cigarette butts. Car that hardly ever went anywhere.
Until now..
I must have lost focus, because I look up and the piano is successfully ensconced within the Uhaul truck. This is when it really dons on me, my downstairs neighbors are finally moving..

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