Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Through the Wall

He has a pierced eyebrow and his pants are always falling down. It's hard for me not to judge; I'm more of a fuddy-duddy than I care to admit. She is the stepdaughter of the condo owner. I don't know if her stepdad knows her boyfriend is living there with her. They're about fifteen years younger than I am; the last neighbors were more than fifteen years older than I. I get to be the grownup in this go-round.

Loud thuds against the shared bedroom wall. Could have been a closet door closed too hastily. What time is it? A thud again. It's 6:30 a.m. I hear shouting, another thud. I am tense. Loud noises like these usually meant bad things when I was a kid. Maybe my son won't hear the ruckus.

Thudding, shouting.

I take the dogs out to pee, and stand for a few minutes outside the front door. The shouting permeates the closed patio door. "I'm afraid of you half the time!" she cries. I'm frozen, but the thuds have stopped.

What could I say to her when I next see her? What should I say? Should I write a note? Should I have called the police? Her stepdad? Will the boyfriend always be there? I don't even know their schedules.

I think of the oldest of six daughters who lived two doors down from my parents. She babysat my son a few times when he was a baby and I was in counseling, trying to figure out what to do about my ex, trying to make the depression go away.

On October 10, 2007, she was found dead in an alley in North Hollywood. Her boyfriend had strangled her. He was found later at a friend's house. She was four-and-a-half months pregnant.

I see my neighbor's boyfriend outside once in a while. He usually has a put-upon air, like he thinks his life is hard and he wants pity. He bugs me.

I imagine what I could say to him if I hear thuds and shouting again. I imagine saying something about not letting him create that kind of atmosphere in our complex. For his girlfriend. Right next door to me and my little boy. I imagine calling the police. I imagine telling my neighbor she doesn't have to put up with that kind of fear and chaos.

A few weeks pass. This morning is quiet. I take the dogs out to pee. I hear shouting, but no thuds. It's about 7:00 a.m. The boyfriend is shouting expletives. They quiet down. Maybe they've heard my foot on the stairs.

I freeze, listening. Nothing. I don't know what to do, what to say. I just stand there, waiting.

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