When I got home I found the neighbor sitting behind the bakery’s woodpile, smoking a cigar. The neighbor, I guess that’s all he is now. First, he was the cute neighbor, then the hot neighbor, then the creepy neighbor. For now, he’s the lonesome neighbor, sitting behind the stack of wood with a curl of smoke tracing over his head into the archway. From this angle, I could see his bald patch
“Banished, or just hiding?” I ask him
“She’s home. So I have to do this out here” he says. By she, he means his daughter.
I nod, “Plus, the smoke isn’t good for the baby.”
“It isn’t good for me either, but it was a long day. She’s asleep now.”
Above us in the courtyard a small whine echoes from an upstairs window.
“It doesn’t sound like she is anymore. But, finish it.” I say.
I don’t know why I sided with him. I guess I just didn’t want the smoke scent lingering in the elevator. Maybe I didn’t want him to offer a puff to me, for him to watch me close my lips around it. I’d have said no, he’d have bragged about how nice it is. He likes expensive things. He likes to show them off. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes it’s an excuse made by an absentee father.
He moved into the apartment directly across the hall from me in 2021, some months after I had separated from my husband. I watched him moving in and texted a friend about the new cute neighbor. The elevator was broken and we had to walk four flights up the spiral stairs. I think it was summer because I remember sweating. Sometimes we would pass each other in the stairwell. He was usually in a suit. I was often in something lackluster: sweatpants, no makeup. I was often blushing.
So yes, I thought he was cute. Or cute for a neighbor, at least. I blame it on some sort of breeding in captivity instinct, the way someone seems a lot more attractive when they are sitting next to you on an airplane. . When we first spoke he leaned against his doorway, loosening his tie, a bit out of breath from another trip up 4 flights of stairs. A trip he had saved me from doing. He had intercepted the mailman downstairs and brought me a package. He handed it to me with minimal conversation and excessive eye contact. Then he became the hot neighbor.
He had a Spanish accent. He was starting a company that had something to do with cryptocurrency. He was converting the apartment into an office, or so he claimed. This is just my office, but maybe I will stay here on long nights.
I took a package for him once and handed it off to a woman in the apartment. I said “I think this is for your boyfriend.” and she thanked me. When I saw him later I said “I gave a package to your girlfriend.” and he said,
“She’s not my girlfriend, she just works for me.”
He was always doing little favors for me. He asked to see the layout of my apartment for comparison, out of curiosity. I showed him, briefly. It was messy. I was in a loose tank top with no bra on. My hair pulled back. I was assembling a set of IKEA drawers. He asked if I lived alone. I said I did. He asked about the man that comes and goes. I asked him which one?
We exchanged phone numbers. Just to be neighborly. I didn’t realize it, but as soon as I passed him my phone to put in his number I got a dirty text from one of my lovers. Oops.
When the previous neighbors lived in my apartment, the room across the courtyard from my bedroom was a kitchen. A family lived there, and the dad used to stay up all night smoking every 45 minutes. Turning the kitchen light on and off. So I hung blackout curtains in my bedroom. I keep them open during the day because otherwise, it’s pitch black. Now the kitchen is an office, his office. The neighbor hung a painting of Beethoven in the center of the wall, which glared back at me.
One night, after midnight, I got up to use the bathroom and when I returned I peeked through the curtains toward Beethoven. To the left, I could see a hint of the open doorway that leads into his office. A light was on. The hall must enter into the bathroom because I saw him leading a woman in there, both naked, only a glimpse of their bodies before they disappeared and the light from the bathroom stopped washing into the hallway. I couldn’t tell if it was the woman I’d met before. I closed the curtains and went to bed.
Once I ran into him on the street outside the building. I was all dolled up for a first date. He was coming back from a yoga class, mat in hand, and his hair was sticking up. Somehow, even though it was completely innocent, the next move I made was the sluttiest thing I did that summer. Not the back-to-back dates, or the threesomes, or steady the rotation of men and women coming in and out of my apartment, but this: I looked at him, stepped closer, lifted my hand, and ran my fingers through his hair to fix it, giggling and saying, what did you do?
It was a power move. I shouldn’t have done it. Hindsight being what it is, and direct eye contact being what it is.
When I got to the date he texted me. Just this: 💦
He never really worked in the office, and in time I forgot it was there. Then one night I was at home, clad in black lace, waiting on one of my lovers to come by. The same one from the naughty text, actually. The lover canceled plans, but I kept the outfit on and took my glass of wine into the bedroom to spend some time reading. I left the curtains open and slowly the sun set. When I stood up, it was dark outside, and the lights in his office were on, and the neighbor was there at his desk, watching me. I jumped down out of view, then sheepishly stood back up. He waved and pointed to the door. I met him there, throwing my robe on. He leaned against the doorway and said,
“Are you going to invite me in?”
“I wasn’t planning to.”
“Come on, you’ve been giving me a show all day.”
“I have been existing in my own bedroom. You shouldn’t have been able to see much.”
I gave in and did invite him in. It was not a very erotic encounter. I made him a G&T and told him I wasn’t putting on a show for him. Listen, I make no claims of perfect innocence here, but I am allowed to wear what I want when I am alone in my apartment… without fear of strange men looking in the windows
He sat on my couch and we talked about dating, he jumped right in to talk about sex.
“Do you think women like blowjobs? I feel like they don’t really like it,” he asked.
He also said something about how women confuse him because some of them come right away and others take forever and it never happens. Something about the way he said it made me feel like he had never made a woman come. I told him that. He didn’t really like that. He definitely didn’t like that.
The conversation devolved from there, he told me he suspects he might have a shrimp allergy, and showed me the rash on his arm. I assumed by then he had completely given up all hope of getting me into bed. I actually gave him a cream for the rash. But he kept talking.
“I have seen a lot. You know I can see into your living room too.”
“You have nice nipples.”
I have been told this before. I wondered if it gave any credit to his story. I made him let me into his apartment so I could look at the view from the office. I couldn’t really see into the living room. He came up behind me and put his fingers through the back of my hair, gathering it into his fist and pulling. That’s when he became the creepy neighbor.
“Nope! Down boy!” I yelled at him, like a dog, and I walked back to my apartment. He whined like a toddler, “Oh come on!”
The next week I bought privacy film and hung it on my bedroom windows. I texted him to tell him that his window privileges had been revoked. But before it arrived, he rang the doorbell while I was in the shower. I answered the door in a towel.
We moved on and we’re polite. Sometimes he winks at me on the sidewalk, and sometimes I see his daughter when she is here. She’s about two, maybe younger. She is sweet, and beautiful, and she only speaks Spanish. I am guessing that her mother is another one of the women he says isn’t his girlfriend. Good for her.
Oh my god I almost threw up. I feel like this guy is a MAN but he acts like he is twelve and living in the 70’s. Definitely never made a woman cum. I appreciate your honesty and bluntness with him.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That is a fine piece, Alessandra!
LikeLiked by 1 person
You’re right: he is good looking. However, the presumptuous attitude is a major turn off and a real RED FLAG.
LikeLiked by 1 person