I saw my new neighbor today. The flat next to mine’s been vacant a while, so I’m sure that this new boy has taken it. I’ve never seen him in the building before. He’s flawless and I must meet him. I’ll certainly introduce myself next time.
He cooks. I heard the sound of pans clanking through the open window which, like me, he keeps open year-round; I heard the threefold tap of a wooden spatula against a pan; and I heard the faint crack of an egg followed closely by the sizzle of its whites on a non-stick cooking surface. Breakfast smelled good. When it was finished I heard water steaming as my new neighbor immediately scrubbed the dishes.
He exercises diligently. More specifically, he runs great distances with impressive frequency. He keeps marathon pace, I’m sure. One day I heard him come in just after I had shut my door on the way in from work. He had just completed one of his runs, and I could hear the pants coming from his heaving chest. His door slammed just as I came out to take a look.
He watches the same television programs that I do. I know this because I can hear the introduction music drifting in through the open windows. He must have good taste. You know: nature programs over common punditry, foreign films over domestic reality programming. He does have his guilty pleasure installments, to be sure. From the sound of the opening scores I can recognize some of the brain-melting nothingness that I subscribe to when I’m uninspired. His elevated sense of humor is probably only trumped by his penchant for irony.
He listens to good music. I can hear his stereo through the wall that separates his flat from mine. Though he presses play at odd hours, I’ve concluded that he likes classic American blues in the early hours, while he saves the good reggae for that part of midday when the sun spills through the building’s east-side windows. Once in a while I can hear the thumping rhythms of hip-hop music. One day I came in from the rubbish bins to the mesmerizing sound of foreign languages, over foreign rhythms, drifting out from his open door. I stopped to listen.
Where did he go, anyway? Waiting around isn’t like me.
The next morning I walked out of my apartment just as he did, except it wasn’t him. My insides jumped at what they took for an impostor. This can’t be him, I thought. What I happened upon that day was a plain ogre with thinning hair and a snub nose. He squinted at me with crooked, jet-black eyes that harbored the clouded corneas of a late-stage syphilitic. When he said hello his chapped, swollen lips curled up to reveal a mouthful of festering enamel. His chin was littered with that gristly black stubble that alcoholics grow during weeklong benders.
His awkward posture was putrid.
After swallowing back the vomit in my throat, I asked myself why the hell this diseased beast had come out of his apartment. This one certainly lacked the runner’s physique and contemporary taste in music that I always pictured in my mind.
When did the other boy move out?