Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bitterly Tart

I realize this isn’t the last part of Jack and the Giant Killer. I’m not sure when I’ll get in the mood to return to writing it. So many things are happening in my life right now. I never really give up on any story. I’ll write it when I can, running the pieces together from start to finish and refreshing everyone’s memories. Yet for right now . . .

I’m tasting a bit of lemon in my mouth. I haven’t eaten any lemons. Yet I’m reminded of the old adage: ‘When Life hands you lemons, make lemonade.’

It’s such a feel-good thing. When life gets you down, you pick yourself up, take the pieces, and build something better with the situation that’s before you.

Trying . . . I’m trying . . . but it can get so hard.

The problems right now does not deal with the work I’m doing. In fact, I would be doing great right now without the added distractions I’m going through.

Lemons are falling from the trees, making me stumble down life’s path

I try to stay away from posting too much of my personal life on this blog, unless it directly involves writing something for my memoir or it deals with an absence from my postings. This post involves the later part.

Lemon juice squirts into the eye. It stings. Hold on, let me wipe away a bit with a wet tissue

I’ve been having a few problems with where I live. I have a nice apartment, with only me and a downstairs tenant who just moved in during the middle of April. I never met them, but I’ve become very acquainted with them, in a not-so-nice way.

Lemons pound on the head. So hard. They hurt

I live in the second floor apartment; they live on the first floor. There is a large partition jutting from the side of the kitchen wall, I assume it is for the other tenant’s furnace duct. We can hear each other through the vent. I can hear them laughing, talking, and coughing (I guess they are very heavy smokers who cough every 5 minutes). They can hear me while I wash the dishes, take a shower, flush my toilet, or as my refrigerator hums when it turns on.

I’ve never complained over the noises they make. They complain constantly about mine. There’s not much either of us can do. It is a structural problem. But the other tenants blame me for living in my apartment. We both signed 1-year leases. I can’t break mine without paying the remaining amount in full. I don’t believe their financial situation is any better.

They tried to break into my apartment early Sunday morning at 1:30am. The man had it planned out. He would wait until 11:30pm Saturday and break in. It was going to be the last night to deal with the noises. He also wanted my computer. Told his friend he would “get up in there” for it.

How do I know all of this? I already told you. The wall duct. I heard him plan everything out. I didn’t say he was the brightest of criminals. I’ve never known one to go outside, talking loudly on his cell phone about it in the busy street.

Squeezing the juice from the lemons is hard. The peel is rough. I’ve lost my taste for lemons a long time ago. I wish for something sweeter, something better, for my life

He waited until the time, but saw my apartment light still on. I was still awake, typing away at my keyboard. I heard him walking around outside, in the rain, coughing. Then he went back inside his place and told someone (his girlfriend or wife?) that my light was still on. “Have to wait. Wait until after she goes to sleep.” That’s fine for him. He hummed a song to himself, getting giddy about it.

I rolled my eyes at his audacity/ego/self-assurance and continued typing.

I know. You’re wondering why I didn’t call the police. I have no proof of what he said. It’s the proverbial, “he said/she said,” argument. Now you’re asking me why not call anyway. At least the police will know then.

It’s not that simple. Pittsburgh is strange when involving the police. About ten years ago my apartment was broken into. I talked to them, and they basically said there wasn’t much they could do about it. My older sister has lived in different areas of Pittsburgh. She’s been burglarized close to 4 times. The police never catch the person, even when she knew who did it and told them. Once, they didn’t even bother taking a report. ‘We have better things to do,’ seems to be their mentality.

April 17th, her apartment was robbed AGAIN. Yes, April. Of this year. Last month.

I needed proof before even thinking about dialing 911. I have none. I told people, friends . . . co-workers . . . about the tenants. I’ve even shown photos.

The time approached midnight. I settled in to sleep. I turned on the stairwell light outside my apartment door, so the guy wouldn’t miss the note I wrote and taped to my door.

What note? That was the question everyone thought immediately, wasn’t it? I had taped a note on my door for the man to read. Basically, I told him that I could hear him just as clearly through the walls as he could hear me, his sarcastic remarks, his crude jokes, and his plans of breaking into my apartment. I said in the note that his name is the first I’ll drop to the police if I found anything missing.

I’ve made a quart of lemonade. Does anybody want any? I’m not really in the mood for a drink

I was almost asleep when I hear the tenant’s apartment door close (yes, I can even hear that through the walls). He happily made his way to the door leading into the stairway. He popped open the bottom lock, very professionally. I’m not sure how he did it without bending the wood frame or busting the knob. I heard a door shut. My drowsy mind tried to convince me that it wasn’t the tenant - just the drivers who parked along the street to eat at the restaurants or drink at the bars. They parked along my street nightly. I think they believed their cars were safe there since it’s right across from a bank.

Yeah, safe . . .

I don’t hear the creak of steps. I don’t hear anyone outside my door. All I heard was a soft thump of the bottom door closing again. Then a shout erupted into the watery night.


I guess he read my note.

It has been quiet all Sunday. I haven’t heard one complaint from them. I haven’t heard one cough, or laugh, or anything. The most I heard was a woman’s voice first saying, “She’s got a Facebook page!” (So? Who doesn’t?) The man made some comment about my hair. Then, later that afternoon, I heard a woman saying, “You gotta do what you gotta do,” after I heard some young teenagers mess with the rusty fire escape on the other side of the building.

Are more lemons about to fall on me?


  1. Wow. What assholes. It's too bad the police are assholes there, too. But at least you left that note and it seems to have deterred them for now. I hope you get sweet, sweet tea soon (you've gotta like sweet tea).

  2. Scary stuff going on there Michelle! Please, do take great care that you don't become a victim of them -stupid ass-hats though they may be.

  3. What an awful situation! I can't imagine that you'd be very loud typing at the computer???

    Can you complain to the person you are renting from?

  4. That is just scary! What IS wrong with some people? Although I love the idea of the note and hey... he can read. Hope that they will not bother you again. Stay safe Michelle.
    (I read over at Suldog's place that you've landed a payed writing job? Congratulations! Well deserved.)

  5. Yeah. These neighbors are the type of people who believe everybody has to live their lives to their dictates. They take everything as a personal affront. I never complained once about the noises they make, but they complained each time I flush my toilet or take a shower.

    I'll have a talk with the landlord. He and the handyman are usually around during the week, so my stuff is pretty much safe then. He likes me - I always pay my rent on time or early. My place is always looking nice. They even show it off to prospective buyers of the building. All I want is to be safe in my apartment. If they can add a few more locks to the doors and maybe something to the window where the fire escape is, then I'll be happy.

    FYI: Get this! The guy was talking so loudly on his cell phone that people out on the street heard him. I guess maybe someone said something to the police, because I saw one parked by the church catty-corner to the building late Saturday afternoon and another patrolling the streets. Too bad they didn't catch him in the act that night.

  6. Wow Michelle. Please stay safe. While I'm not usually an advocate of personal firearms (because rarely do people know how to use them, let alone use them in tense situations), I would advise you pick up a piece, take a training class on how to use it, and keep it near your bed. I really don't want to see your name in the newspaper, unless they are talking about your latest book.

  7. I've sent you an e-mail with more detailed advice, but the short advice is: Go to the police. Now. Explain in full. If they choose to do nothing, so be it. However, don't get into a sorry situation and then have regrets about NOT informing them.

  8. Sorry to hear of all your lemons and what terrible neighbours. Stay safe, that's the most important thing (even if your note did kick ass)

  9. Ugh. That's awful!

    I'm familiar with the whole police thing of, "Well, he hasn't actually committed a crime yet. . ."

    Talking to your landlord is a good step to take. Just taking a shot at removing him from your immediate presence is probably worthwhile. . .

    I'm sure Suldog gave you some good advice, and while I, like Eric, am not generally an advocate of the firearms (similar thing - often as not, they end up being used against you), it's worth considering if the a**hole decides to up the ante on you. . .

    I will send up prayers for you. And here's to many more gallons of lemonade. . .

  10. Michelle, its too bad you didnt record these asshats ... now I am sure its too late because they wont speak in the apartment about you or what they plan on .. but now I am really worried about you .. really.. and Jim is right .. regardless of the outcome, report them.

  11. Oh, my gosh. Michelle, how much longer is your lease? I do hope you can get out of there in the very near future...this is just a horrible situation...

    But you have definitely made lemonade out of it...what a beautifully written post! I love the poetic structure...the repetition of your are really an extraordinary writer...

    And so, now I'm going to pray that you are protected from these criminal neighbors... unbelievable jerks...but I think you are very shrewd...and I'm completely impressed. Please do take care of yourself, and keep us posted...I'll be really worried about you now...

    Love you! Janine XO

  12. Thanks everyone! Yeah, don't know what to make of tenants like that. In answer to someone's question, my lease isn't up until January 2011. The landlord is trying to get the apartments all spiffy and rented out to bring in money while he's waiting for a buyer for the building. So I'm not sure how inclined he'll be to kick paying tenants out and lose money since he's working so hard to get people in to rent.

  13. My hopes are that you can get out of this difficult situation safely.

  14. Michelle, this really is scary. We agree with Jim. . . report it. Love the note you left on your door. At least it let them know you're "on" to them.

    Be safe !

  15. Ick! That's creepy! But I've gotta say, I love your gutsy move, putting the note on the door... perfect, Michelle!

  16. I agree with everyone else. This really sounds like a dangerous situation. If not today, then maybe tomorrow. I'm not sure that it's something you can handle alone.

    Living in NYC I've had my share of nutso neighbors. The few that I met who were obsessed with trying to silence normal noise were always seriously troubled.

    I say tell the police least if they'll let you. And definitely tell the landlord. If anything nasty happens in your building, he won't be able to sell it. So it's in his interest to step in.

    On the side...your writing about lemonade is wonderful.

  17. i definitely agree with the advice to go to the police, even if they do nothing. at least it establishes a record of them being notified.

    and uh ya know, your stuff is replaceable. you are not. second ammendment rights and self defense kind of apply here too.


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