Overhearing the Neighbors


Jethroe – aka: Satan

My corona-routine has been a bright spot in an otherwise stressful and depressing situation. I spend the morning writing and reading, making notes and plans, setting goals and then wondering how I can obfuscate them while still feeling like I accomplished something. I work in the living room which faces another building and a courtyard of sorts. It faces directly away from the sun and the street, so it’s cool and quiet. When I’ve organized, I put on my writing kufi, now needed to keep my long corona-locks out of my eyes, and start actively procrastinating.  

It has, however, allowed me to unwittingly listen in on the lives of my neighbors. At 6 am there is only a little life rousing back there. People converse with the dogs they’re walking in the yard.  Converse, not give orders. When I hear the whispers of conversation I peep out to see who it is and what their dog looks like. There’s an older woman who has a full conversation with her Corgi about the day ahead, or, a hopeful longshot depending on my understanding of her Czech phraseology, in which she outlines her plans to kill and eat her downstairs neighbor. A child in the building has a habit of whooping like a fire engine for very long periods of time. I’m guessing his parents drink. There’s a baby-toddler in one of the flats who throws a tantrum each morning of proportions that can only be described as epic, hellish, and otherworldly. I haven’t seen the parents in person yet (I look for eyes of extreme exhaustion above a mask), but when I do I will hug them and whisper words of comfort. And then send them alcohol.

I often wonder what the neighbors think of us here. We are mostly quiet and stick to ourselves. We watch TV late sometimes and argue sometimes, but overall they probably think of us as those weird people who talk to their cat and watch carpool karaoke sometimes late at night. Not too bad, I figure. I smile at people outside, say hello, hold the door for neighbors, am always polite at the shop. They should mostly get the idea that I am a reasonable adult human male.        

After my morning work, I go for a 4 or 5 mile walk or I work out. On walk days I go to my local park and listen to a podcast and/or just walk and make notes about the story I’m currently working on. I pack a messenger bag with a bottle of water, a book, earphones, and a notebook. As a long dedicated notebooker, this last one is a no-brainer. I walk through the park and occasionally stop in the woods or on the path and jot some notes. It’s a fine system.

Last week, while cleaning out some old boxes of things I came across a recorder that my dad had gotten me for Christmas a year ago. I don’t know why I didn’t use it, but assumed it had something to do with my unmitigated horror at the sound of my own voice (poor students). Nevertheless, after two beers and a shot, it dawned on me to try it out. I charged it, pushed some buttons (namely the one that reads: record), and test drove it. It seemed to work fine, so I packed it for my next walk. I name him Jethroe.

It worked great. I had an idea and just pulled out the recorder, hit ‘record’ and began muttering into it. Not known for my efficiency with the spoken word (read: I do not stop talking ever), I correct, add, mutter excitedly, and evaluate (ooh, I like that) as I stomp down the path. I make more oral notes while in the woods and on one of the other paths as I step around women pushing prams and older couples getting exercise in matching fanny packs.

It’s only as I’m leaving the park that I notice the narrowed eyes people offer me as I walk past them. That guy’s been talking to himself they seem to say. I laugh the laugh of the obnoxious guy who thinks he’s being judged for his artistic quirks, but who in reality is being judged for his goofy-ass voice. With the assistance of chocolate ice cream and a good book, I sleep well that night.  

The following morning I do my routine and sit down to extract my notes from the recorder. Though it’s 6:15 am, I desire whiskey. I hate hearing my voice on any recorded device and making matters worse is that I can’t understand half of my notes. So I am forced to rewind and listen, rewind and listen. As I do this I emit sounds akin to the frustrated rutting of a pregnant pig. Also, there might be crying. The routine is: hit play, listen to my voice, mutter along with it and/or argue with/yell at my recorded voice, push stop, ejaculate a litany curse words and prepositions, rewind, repeat.

When I finish, I notice that the flats across the way and the courtyard seem quiet today. The woman didn’t converse with her Corgi and the child hasn’t exploded into an apocalyptic tirade. I guess the woman is telling the dog that their neighbor is wacko and the parents of the demon child are looking at each other and shaking their heads. At least I feel like I’m part of the morning crew now. Maybe if I see them they’ll hug me.

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