Neighbours

Apartment living is interesting, to say the least.

I never lived in apartments until I got married.  My husband has lived in plenty.  In college, I lived in the dorms a few semesters, and lived with families a couple of semesters.  Dorm living and apartment living have similarities, but have plenty of differences, too.  Sometimes I think dorm living is better, other times I think it is far worse.  The similarities are, of course, the worst parts: the noise, never being able to keep your problems 100% to yourself (or be completely uninvolved in your neighbours’ problems).

At our first apartment, we were in a duplex.  That was what we wanted–less neighbours, more house-like living.  We hoped to have a baby sometime in the first year of being married, but had no idea if that would happen.  It wasn’t our dream living situation, but it was the best thing we could afford at the time with my husband being adamantly opposed to complex living.

We lived there together about four months (he lived there about two months longer; I moved in when we got married) before it became clear we had to go somewhere else.  Our neighbours were a nightmare.  They were supposedly brothers who were around my dad’s age but acted like they were our age (but still, completely different from us!).  They yelled at each other almost all day long.  It was terrifying, especially when my husband was working long hours 7 days/week.  I was alone and scared of them.  And I was pregnant.  I was afraid of bringing our baby home there and being surrounded by so much malice.  But that wasn’t the only problem.  They had tons of “friends” over daily.  Their friends were as loud as they were, but would typically stay just 5-30 minutes.  It became clear to me very quickly that nobody has that many friends.  Then there was the problem with the electric bill.  We were supposed to split it with the neighbours, but our neighbours somehow ran it up to $200/month.  In the summer.  We didn’t have air conditioning; they never shut theirs off.  Our landlord apparently thought it was perfectly reasonable to pay hundreds of dollars for electricity when you have a one-bedroom apartment.  We did not.  We realised we were in a bad living situation, with neighbours who might be drug dealers at worst and just plain bad people at best, and a landlord who adored them and thought they could do no wrong.  (In one conversation, my landlord said, “Well every time I go to their apartment, they have a Bible open on the table…” as if to defend their bad behaviour.)  So we looked for a place to live where we wouldn’t feel like our lives and our unborn baby’s life might be in danger.  This was the first time I’d seen my husband become very protective over his wife and child, and I was impressed with that.  I was relieved I didn’t have to defend my concerns over our living situation to him–he saw them himself and wanted out just as badly as I did.

We found our current apartment right away.  It was in a nearby city, but it was actually a closer commute to work for both of us.  Until about a year ago, it was a 55+ community, but the landlord had had trouble finding enough tenants in that age group, so she opened it up to younger people as well.  We are currently one of four apartments of “young” people out of the 24 apartments.  We mentioned to her when we were applying that we were having a baby, realising that no one in the apartments had ever had this “problem” before.  She said it would be fine: “I can’t keep my tenants from having babies, now can I?”  But we knew we would be pioneers of a sort with this particular community.  I have to admit I hate being the first one to do something that causes a stir.  But it was a great location, perfect apartment, and I would have been happy to raise my baby there.

A few weeks before the baby was born, I was having increasing fears over bringing our baby home, for lots of reasons.  I knew bringing him home would mean dialysis, and I knew it would mean his lungs were strong enough to live (I don’t know why I feared this–I think I feared the other outcome more, but it just made me fear everything).  I knew the neighbours would be unhappy with a baby.  On one side, the lady asked my husband, who is a musician, to not practice because she can’t hear her TV, which she never shuts off.  This is devastating for him.  On the other, the husband and wife fight constantly for a reason no one really understands.  It isn’t anything like our last living situation and is sometimes comical, but sometimes I just wish they would shut up.  I realised I had no interest in being the talk of the complex.  Everyone there knows everything about everyone.  Except us.  No one knows anything about us, and I like to keep it that way.

As it stands, no one knows we were pregnant.  No one knows we had a baby, or that the baby died.  People from our church have been coming over almost daily, but no one knows why.

Then the husband of the fighting pair next door died unexpectedly last week.  I guess he had been sick a long time, which is what made him so angry.  It’s quiet now, and I feel guilty, but I am thankful to be able to sleep.  The first few nights home from the hospital were a terror to me since I couldn’t sleep anyway, and his loud, complaining voice was the last thing I wanted greeting me out of my restless moments of sleep.  

We learned he died when I commented to our other neighbour that as long as she wasn’t up all hours of the night yelling like the man in number 9 was, then we could put up with anything.  She looked at us like we were stupid, insensitive kids who had never lost anything when she said he had just died the night before.

I doubt we could garner any sympathy from anyone there if we said we’d lost a baby, so we don’t say anything.  On the one hand, I don’t care that they don’t know since I like the anonymity.  On the other hand, I wish people would not just think we’re naive, stupid “kids” who don’t know anything about life because we’re 40 years younger than they are.  There are lots of things I don’t know about, but I do know about losing people you love dearly.

And now I’m just getting sick of apartment living, getting sick of dealing with the people.  We have a few more years of it ahead of us, so it’s not like I can do anything about it, but I wish the people didn’t make me think about my baby so much.

At least there are no other babies in the complex for me to see or hear.  That’s something I can be thankful for, at least.

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