Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thin Walls Don't Make Good Neighbors

My mother and I once lived in a one bedroom apartment, 505, uncomfortably sandwiched in one squat level between two other units, on the top of a small hill. The walls were about as thick and sturdy as a Club cracker, and had none of the cracker's buttery deliciousness. Which is good, because if they did, we probably would have had no walls at all. I ate a lot at this point in my life. I'm getting sidetracked. As I was saying, if I was on one side of the apartment, and a neighbor in the apartment on the opposite side fucking blinked, I could hear it. I was a kindergartner living with an uptight, working single mom. (Nothing against my mom, she's cool and everything but I didn't think she was very cool when I was four and I wanted to jump around and shit.) Needless to say, any time I did anything, ever, you know, like, breathe- I was SHHed and told we had thin walls and I was going to disturb the neighbors. I might be exaggerating ever so slightly, but in my bouncy ball baby brain, that is what it seemed like.

One fine evening, I was sitting on the couch, watching an episode of The Golden Girls. Then my mother did something that really spiced up our otherwise quiet evening.

She told me it was a school night, and that I needed to turn off the television and go to bed. Rules and structure were a tad inconsistent for me as a kid, so I had a slight tendency to push the limits. Translation: I was a real bitch sometimes, and I tested my mother's patience all of the time. Many battles were fought at 505. Limbs could have been lost, and I'm mildly surprised they weren't. In my defense, I didn't really know any better, but it is embarrassing when I think about it now. Embarrassing and hilarious.

I asked to be able to finish watching the episode, and got a No. I had a mild breakdown over how important it was to me that I be able to finish watching the wacky antics of these old women. Since I understood what was actually going on so well, and everything, and wasn't probably just laughing whenever the studio audience laughed.

"No, turn the TV off."

Then I got sassy and refused, so she turned it off for me. I turned it back on. Off. On. Voices were raised. Tears were shed. "SHHHH-the neighbors!" I flung my body around dramatically. My crying got louder, my face got pink and puffy. The deprivation of The Golden Girls was actually going to kill me, I was sure of it. My mother just didn't understand this. The TV went off. The TV went on. My mother scolded, I talked back. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On. We began this very cinematic physical struggle around the room that probably looked almost choreographed. A grown woman and a hyperventilating little rug monster, cha-cha-cha-ing in a battle for television dominance, hunched over with our arms up like drunken grizzly bears. My mom disappeared for a couple of minutes, and I thought I had won. I turned the TV back on and sat down triumphantly. She came back with a pair of scissors, and angrily cut the cord.

Oh my God, I probably looked like a possessed person having a seizure. My head may or may not have spun around in a full circle. I had a complete and total meltdown, like she just shot my puppy in the face in front of me or something. At this moment, watching this show was the most important goal in my incredibly small world.

"YOU HAVE TO STOP THIS! The neighbors!"

I looked around a little frantically and reached for the nearest object. One of my high-tops, the kind the light up. Breathing heavily, my hair going in every direction, my puffy red face all tear streaked, I clambered over to the wall, high-top in hand, with the sole facing the wall, and narrowed my eyes hatefully at my mother. With each loud THUMP the shoe made against the wall, the red lights glowed against the side of my face. I let out a shrill shriek.

"Fuck the neighboooooooooors!"

My mom's facial expression relaxed in that special way that said "You done fucked up now, young'n." Visions of assbeatings danced in her eyes.

Then there was a loud, firm, even knock on the door.

My mom's head whipped around toward the door, whipped back toward me with a quick 'You-are-so-dead-if-this-is-what-I-think-it-is' look, and then she went and slowly answered the door for the police officer, who was probably the biggest man I had ever seen in my life up until then.

He asked if he could come in and talk to us a little bit. He explained that the neighbors had called and complained, and that was why he came out. Then he noticed the pair of scissors and a wooden spoon (which would have been wielded as a warning to knock off my shit) or something sitting on the back of the couch. He asked what was going on. My mom started to answer him, but I interrupted and tearfully told him that the TV got ruined and it was never going to be able to be fixed and I didn't know what I was going to do and also probably that my mom fed me dog food and I hadn't seen sunlight in a month she keeps me in a cage and you look nice can I please come live with you do you have kids where do you live I'm a really good daughter I swear. Lots of hiccupy crying and patheticness. He got down on one knee and talked to me very nicely and assured me that the TV could certainly be fixed (when he said that, my mom looked like she was going to clobber him from behind with a cast iron skillet because she did NOT want me thinking I was ever watching TV again) and that everything was going to be okay. Whatever, Officer. Can't you fix the damn TV and tell her it's against the law to give me a bedtime? God.
I mean, okay.. thank you. Froooowwwnnnn. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

He stayed for a couple of minutes to assess what had gone awry, and my mom nervously tried to explain what had been going on with out having a nervous breakdown over it (or getting arrested). It probably didn't take much to realize that she was just a young mother with a spazzing out kid. I was trying in vain to stretch this process, and when that didn't work, I tried to act like seeing the cop taught me a lesson...? I went and got in bed and tried to look as little and forgivable and innocent as possible. That didn't really work out that well for me. As soon as the door shut behind the cop, my mom was on the warpath, and I don't blame her. A lot of kids get their mouths washed out with soap when they use foul language, I know this. My mom didn't mess around with any mild bar soap. She came in and yanked me out of bed and gave me my well deserved bollocking, along with a dose of Disgusting liquid soap. Not that any liquid soap is probably delicious, but damn. It was green, and I could not keep my tongue still (obviously a chronic condition, which is part of why I found myself in this situation to begin with), so the expanding lather made me feel like I had rabies. Even after I rinsed my mouth I could taste it. I could still kind of taste it at lunch the next day. This was unsettling enough to keep me from saying another curse word out loud, even in the dark by myself, until I was in 5th or 6th grade; and not in front of my mother again until I was a teenager.


  1. Wow..... Damn, that was a great post. Immersive and vivid. Oh and yes, totally fucking funny. You are a rockstar.

  2. You must have been quite the monster. :-)