By Olubunmi Familoni
Naturally, I hate my neighbours — of course it’s me just being generally misanthropic, not that they are very terrible people (this is not to say that they do not have that wee bit of horribleness about them which people who live in close proximity with a highly irritable person like me are wont to have, but then. . .) — but you get to miss the bumbling bastards once you’ve moved house. You miss the weekend cries of those horrid little chimpanzees they call their children when beaten or when just happy — I usually can’t tell the difference; those swinging monkeys make the same sound to represent different emotions — once, one bleated so hard I feared the little chipmunk was getting garrotted by one of the parents (not that I cared very much if he was in any particular mortal danger, I couldn’t have been bothered otherwise, either way I would have just turned up the volume on my TV and carried on with pretending to be interested with the ghastliness on the news); apparently the sweet little thing was only having a jolly good time and that eerie sound was laughter. I could have throttled him myself at that point.
Speaking of turning volumes up to drown the cries of little demons from hell, I’m going to sorely miss pretending to not be home when my neighbours come knocking to ‘check if I’m fine‘ (the ridiculousness of the gesture…), or when they come to borrow some money, or ask that I pay some nasty communal levy. I’m going to miss turning off the TV, the fridge, the lights, and holding my breath, when they come knocking, just so they think I’m not home and get exasperated, or they imagine I’m hanging from the ceiling on a rope and they’re elated, or worried, depending on how much the knocker really cares.
Still on volumes going up, I’m going to miss turning the volume on my Linkin Park way up to the roof while Chester Bennington screams his top off, or turning some grating live Pasuma performance so high they’d think NURTW was having one of their rowdy carnivals right behind their ears. And of course kicking down a neighbour’s door waving a .44 in his face for playing something sappy like Dido above whispering decibels — “Do you mind turning this evil music down, don’t you know I’m trying to pray down there!”
Of course I’m going to miss the prayer warriors who always choose the dead of the night to catch the devil unawares in his lair; you’d think they were on a spiritual MTN Xtra Cool plan, the way they only call God at night for long hours. . . “Do you mind keeping it down, some of us are trying to get it up over here! Can we have some quiet, please, so we can sin in peace, thank you.”
My most memorable moment has to be putting a knife through an annoying neighbour’s tyre at dawn (remember when I tweeted that evil intention late one night? Well, the devil was still awake and he retweeted it. . .). Speaking of unneighbourly tweets, there was the other one about murdering the whole lot of them in their beds one night; I never got the chance — that one probably slipped into ‘Missed Call’ on the old devil’s cell phone.
I can only hope for neighbours as irritating as my former ones, they keep me maliciously innovative, hence I cherish them.
I’m definitely not going to miss them making an attempt at greeting me at every turn they can catch me, not minding that I can only manage a sincere grunt most of the time. I never cease to wonder why neighbours feel they have an obligation to be friendly with you. Sometimes I think it has nothing to do with any natural bonhomie; it is just that little bit of nonsense Yorubas refer to as ‘throwing water before you so that you can step on cool ground’. How about throwing the water in your face instead, so you can learn to leave me alone and not trip me up with a happy greeting every time I try to go up the stairs.
A hot neighbour was so ‘friendly’ once that if she hadn’t been pregnant at the time, I probably might have made it happen at a later date. But then I got to find out that all that chumminess — smiling up some sugar, laughing up a storm at the nothing you say, greeting you warmly, one time trying to get you to eat something that looked ghastly enough to have been something somebody vomited rather than something anybody in their right mind would eat — was all a ploy to soften you up for ‘the kill’. The kill: the day her water breaks and she needs someone to drive her to the hospital (the husband/some other random impregnator being at an unknown location). But being the ingenious bastard that I am, I could smell her EDD from a mile off, and a good month before it I moved temporarily to my friend’s in a part of town so far out of reach it could have been Uranus. Of course when I returned a month after the whole fiasco, the surprise on my face upon seeing a baby in her arms said: “You were pregnant?! When? How? Who?!” That thankfully got rid of one burden of neighbourly friendliness. I like to just come and go as I please, without anybody being nice and soft and warm to me like I’m their puppy, or people trying to be my mother or sister. Hopefully they’ll let me just be in this new place, let me just be an orphan, rather than trying to get me to get along with everybody; I’d rather just get on, with everybody staying out of my way.
Well, while I like my way being stayed out of, in the neighbourly context, I’m not so completely churlish that I wouldn’t make the odd exception: once the neighbour is a drop-dead hottie (an unpregnant one, that is), I go out of my way to let them know that they can not only get in my way and stay in it, they are also welcome to stay in my house as well, for a few hours every week. With this kind of sexual magnanimity I manage to balance out the malice, and the equilibrium in the cosmos is restored.
By the way, my first day here and the guy next door knocks on my door (I never have the cinematic good fortune of a ‘girl-next-door’ type who always comes to borrow sugar in a wet tank top and bum shorts, her sweat pores dripping sex all over the floor).
Him (smiling — neighbours are always smiling for no apparent reason; as if it’s just a fine heavenly thing to be neighboured with someone, and that’s enough to hang a bloody smile up all the time): I saw you moving in. . .
Me (unsmiling — not for any effect, but because I never find such encounters particularly amusing or as enjoyable as the other party seems to always find it): You did? I was hoping you wouldn’t.
Him (barks a laugh, as if we’re friends now cracking jokes over beers): I just came to say Welcome. (I wait for him to say it and be off on his sad way. . . Awkward silence).
Him (hand out for a shake): I’m Chris. (he waits for who I am).
Me (hand to myself): Thank you.
It is a Sunday so the pleasantries soon bend towards: What church do you go to?
See, the problem here is that it is not enough that he has just asked a rather inappropriate question (in my books), but he has gone ahead to assume I ‘go to church’, or worse that I am a Christian.
Me: No church.
Him: I’d like to invite you to—
Me: I’d like not to be invited.
His smile leaves before he does.
This fellow saw me moving in — according to him — moving things up the stairs, and didn’t as much as lift a thumb to help, sat on his hairy hands the whole time, and he has the temerity to come up to my door to start a bright chat and go right ahead, past my not-giving-a-fuck-about-you-right-now look, to invite me to church. I already have one new neighbour to hate, thank you.