It’s been ongoing for a while already.
I am talking about my neighbors. Next door.
Today Love took his flight to Singapore. Babylove and I will be following very soon – yey! We had to wake up very early as the flight was very early. Even earlier – the time has gone forward. Sneaky time. Stole me one hour of sleep. Probably the reason why I almost lost it. Today, when coming back from the airport, I found the neighbor. Stupid him, he was doing it again: something nasty to my bicycle. No matter what, when he saw me and my face, and probably especially the look in my eyes, he stopped. That’s a good thing, for him. For me. I don’t want to end up in jail.
Poor neighbors, just before us (Love, Babylove and your friend right here) they had had to cope with two guys who were highly ignorant of the basics of neighboring. They were young, single, with money. Well, young and single mostly. And they did not care. They did all the things a bad neighbor does. Partying loudly without giving a notice first. Borrowing stuff from the common attic and returning it when they left. Damaged. Smoking pot in front of the house – I don’t get why they did not do it on the balcony, that makes me wonder. Blablah.
The neighbors had a very hard time with the two youngsters. I understand. I even work on my empathy level for them. Oh yes, that’s something I omitted about me: I am not the most empathetic person in the room. It does not mean that I am insensible, just that whenever someone gets kicked under the belt in a restaurant, most of the people around will be “experiencing” the pain and make a face. I’ll be making a face too, but probably due to deciding what to choose on the menu. When there are too many dishes I want to try, it gives me pain. I like restaurants when the menu is short but the cooks know what they’re doing… and I digress.
Well, my point is: I understand what they’ve been through during four years before us – the neighbors – and for the past two years, I’ve been patient and kind. With minor hiccups, but no one got killed. On their side. While Babylove and I had already one accident last year.
And there could have been another one some time soon.
Thing is that when we arrived, we had the only baby in the house for 15 years. I think I told you that BL can be loud. As children are. But not in Germany. In Germany they produce quiet children. With soft voices. I love it, it is relaxing. Unfortunately I have a mixture of loud French and oddly loud German as a baby. Plus, he’s been from the birth on around loud Spanish, Chinese, Colombian, Canadian people. One of his godfathers is a loud Indian and the other one is a louder Italian. Let’s not talk about the godmothers… And of course, the neighbors complained. From the first moment we set foot in the house, walking our way upstairs. She was there, talking to another neighbor, who melted down and started baby-talking. But she said: “The stairs are a common place, you see. And it’s echoing. You need to make him quiet while passing by. It’s not a nursery.” I struggled a bit, thinking that I might have misunderstood as my German was not as good. But the look on her face (you know which one I mean? The same look I talked about previously) showed me otherwise. I smiled and moved up.
Also, there is the issue with the bicycles in the hallway of the basement. That’s when it started to be dangerous. We have a common part of the basement to store our bikes. There is no given space for anyone. But I suppose, some sort of twisted tradition and being in the house for a very long time gives you the privilege to put your bike in your special corner. I had not been aware of that before long. The other people in the house just do not care. The neighbors next door do. My bicycle has been moved around for month, first slightly. Then across the basement. I did not realize that it was a warning: if a bike blocks mine, I move it too. And I am fine. If my bike blocks another one, it’s moved. And I am fine. After a few times, I kept care of storing it in a corner, and the croozer in another. The one time it was moved across the whole basement was maybe a bit excessive, but I found funny the effort the person was going through for such a matter. Instead of talking to me.
But I knew as well that, being a foreigner, I would shy some people away. That is a basic learning of living in another country. Even if you speak the language, the merest accent in your speech can be a blow in the face of someone insecure. And stop any communication.
I did not know for sure back then who was the person doing that. Not for sure. Until my bike flew by itself from the basement to the ground floor outside – after that, I started to lock it. I had learned something.
Oh by the way, I am not apologizing. Just explaining. The context. To show that yes, I perfectly understand the other side. I am really good, in fact, at understanding the other side. That’s kind of a gift I’ve got from my grand-mother too. She used to say: “Put on the clothes of your foe. Feel the way they feel walking down the street. If you feel it and can befriend them, there is a little more humanity. If you can’t, strike first.” She was fierce and wise, and from another time. But mostly she was right.
Two years putting on some clothes that weren’t right for me at all. But Love was there and he’s the voice of reason. Rational and strong. Until he was not. He went on a three months assignment in Switzerland. And I was still working. Oma, BL grandma, had come to support me a while. One morning, she called me to check out by the window. Had I left my bike outside all night long in the rain? And unlocked? I do not have as good eyes as she does, so I ran downstairs barefoot. That was my bicycle. I wondered, did I do that? Unlocked, maybe. I am not the best at locking and closing stuff in general. But outside? On my way up, I met the neighbor next door. The gentleman. And he looked very satisfied. So I stopped and asked him. I will spare you the details but yes, that was his work. My bike had “touched” his too often the past few months. It was too big and took too much space. Next time I would not find it in front the house but in the fields. Now I would understand how to behave maybe?
I thought about many things while he was yelling – because my absence of reaction made him believe that I did not care. It’s not that I did not care, well, I did not care much: nobody was dead and I was relieved to know that I was not completely nuts (remember, I wondered if I had left it myself there). I told you that I dislike arguments, too. And that was for me the start of an argument I had no stake in. So he yelled and I thought: “Hm, I wonder how to make him shut up now. I need a shower and I’ll be late again to bring BL to the daycare. Maybe if I bring him, I take my clothes, I go to work and shower there? Hm.. he looks angry. I wonder why. Bike-touching, is that like rape? Maybe. I am not really totally immersed in the culture. I have probably missed something. I’ll ask Love tonight on Skype. Jess, chill, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. Put yourself in his shoes.”
Then I smiled, said sorry, told him to simply knock at my door and talk next time, and left.
I had a confirmation: those people were odd. IMHO. And then two days later, the accident. Now that my bicycle was locked, there was no way to move it. One morning, like every morning, I hung the croozer and jumped on the bike. When you leave my house, you need to cross a highly frequented street. I had felt something off while driving and had looked at my back-wheel suddenly flattening. I was already on the street and my brakes did not work anymore. A car. No brake. Was I dreaming? I had no clue that I wanted to be an action movie star. I went into a skid, the auto braked, the croozer turned on the roof. I am so good at harnessing Babylove that he can most of the time barely breathe. He just had a little fun. And I got scratches on my knees.
I am not a big fan of these slimy sneaky ways of dealing with neighborhood issues. I talked to the neighbor. Politely. He yelled again. Did not confirm but did not deny anything. And told me I and my little bastard had had what we deserved. I went to the police. But with no proof you can just complaint against X. It took me all my self-control not to knock at their door with a kitchen knife.
Earlier this week I have had an adventure involving saving guppies. I have told you about the look. It was on her face. What I did not share, is that after having climbed the facade and opened my apartment door, there was no key to be found. Because the neighbor had taken it. We met right afterwards. She knew I would face trouble to go home. But she would not have given me my keys. She returned them in the evening, in the mailbox with a post-it: “Found. Did not have the time to give them back before.”
We had met. We had met.
Today morning at the airport Love, Babylove and I had a breakfast. BL has a Magpie complex. When it comes to shiny things, he can’t help himself: he puts them in his pockets. A lot of coins and my or Oma’s jewelry ends up in his pockets. This morning it was nail scissors. I have been quite shocked to find that in particular but not surprised, I have cut his nails yesterday evening and in the mess of packing and blablah I just forgot to put them back in safety. Horrible feeling when I think about it.
When we arrived home, and I found the gentleman working on my bike, I snapped. He looked at me and breathed twice. I felt very cold and clear of mind. I told Oma to bring BL home. I reached for my bag and inside there were a milk bottle, some pens and my camera. And the scissors. I looked at him and approached. He probably felt compelled to attack first and walked towards me with a very aggressive posture. Yelling again. How could we possibly have been so impolite this morning? So early and already moving and dragging stuff around (the luggage I assume) and having a car in the middle of the night standing in front of the door with gangsters inside (the taxi driver was a bit dark-skinned, but not as much as I am though. Does that make me a gangster?) and, and…
I realized with relief that I did not feel wrong about anything. My bike is stored outside since the sun is out last week. There is no reason to complain about noise either because children are loud. Period. No, those people are just horrible people. I reached for my bag. I took a picture. Smiled, wished him a nice Sunday, and left.
Now he’s probably wondering if I’ll go to the police with it or not. I am too. I have jut a few weeks left here and that would be annoying. I am not even angry. Anymore. Yet. Is that blackmailing?
Let’s hope there’ll be no next time.