When Dean and I were forced to move out of our first apartment in Nashville due to the fire, we were lucky enough to be moved into a similar unit on the same property.
The positives were that we didn’t have to go far, we still had a balcony and there was a place to lock our bikes up that was under cover from the rain. We also didn’t get the constant scent of cheap weed wafting through this unit for whatever reason. The downsides were that we were all the way in the back of the complex (slightly more competitive parking) and that our unit was located in the middle of the building rather than on the end, so we are now surrounded by neighbors. Our balcony also now faces our old, burned out building, so we get to look at it every day.
Eventually, I became desensitized to the view of the old building and began to enjoy our new location. I went out of my way to introduce myself to my neighbors when I saw them. They were all very nice, especially when they found out we came from ‘the burning building across the creek.’ It actually felt kind of safe to be surrounded by these people that we were at least on first name basis with. I also enjoy that our complex is very diverse.
When we first moved in to this building, I was (understandably, I think) unhappy. We had no possessions, we were sleeping on a borrowed air mattress, I was barely employed and Dean, having just moved less than a week prior, hadn’t found work yet. The only items that we had, aside from things we had borrowed or bought after the fire, were things that had been outside of our unit. Our bikes, our patio furniture, our doormat. Occasionally, I would just go sit out on the patio and pretend everything was normal. It was one place that was comfortable and relaxing.
I went out on the patio one day after a distressing phone call to decompress. I was leaning over the railing looking at the little creek and trying to calm down when I was hit with a coughing fit. Our new downstairs neighbor was smoking below me. I tried to move over to another part of the balcony, but there was no escaping the smoke. I lost my patience and went back inside, probably venting to Dean.
Another time, the two of us were out on the balcony having dinner. When we had no furniture inside, most of our meals were taken on the balcony because there were two chairs and a small table out there. We could relax and listen to the creek and have a few moments of normalcy. We were having a quiet conversation, trying to catch up on our day and the downstairs neighbor came out for a smoke and a phone call. His end of the conversation was so loud that we couldn’t talk over him without sounding like we were competing. I couldn’t deal with the smoke and went inside for a bit. I was so annoyed.
When I came back out (I believe with a glass of wine) Dean informed me that the guy downstairs had referred to himself as ‘kind of a wild stallion” and we began to refer to him as The Stallion. Although the cigarette smoke will always bother me, eventually Dean and I started to enjoy playing with our completely unaware downstairs neighbor, who is, in his own words, “a pretty talented guy.”
We tried having our own conversations really loudly to see if perhaps that would make him aware of our existence. It didn’t. And, although it made us laugh, it was kind of exhausting. More often, Dean would just move his mouth and make faces and gestures as if The Stallions words were coming out of his mouth. That was extra funny the day The Stallion said, “as emasculating as it is, she knows more about cars than I do.”
One night, we were unwinding in the living room when the unmistakable sounds of band practice came drifting up through the floorboards. I made note of the fact that it was a Tuesday night after 9pm and commented to Dean that at least I didn’t have to get up extra early the next day. At one point I realized that I recognized one of the songs. I even sang a long for a few measures to be sure. Yep, it was Hang Me Up To Dry by the Cold War Kids. I could still hear them playing when I went upstairs to bed, but it wasn’t too terrible. The worst was when they would go out on his balcony as a drunk group to smoke because the sound traveled up, but I was eventually able to fall asleep.
Fast forward to this past week. I had early classes on Wednesday and Thursday morning, so both days I was up at 5am. Wednesday night (or Thursday morning if you want to get technical), I woke up out of a sound sleep to the sound of band practice below. Although we had developed a tolerant amusement of the Stallion and his antics up to this point, nothing is funny when it wakes you up at 2:48am. They did eventually stop close to 4am and I did send an email to management who has promised to take it seriously and talk to him.
While waiting to teach my last class of the day on Thursday, I was chatting with the girl at the front desk and yawning. I explained to her why I was dragging a little bit and said something like, “I know this is Music City and everyone is a musician, but band practice in a multi-unit apartment building at 2:48am on a weeknight?” She herself is a songwriter and said that she doesn’t even feel comfortable playing her acoustic guitar after 9pm on the weekends because she doesn’t want to disturb her neighbors. Another friend of mine told a story about how she had neighbors who would shoot off fireworks every night the week of the 4th of July until 1am. Eventually she confronted them and they apologized, explaining that one of them was a teacher and the other was on disability and they just ‘forgot’ that other people have to work year round.
It made me think, how unaware and self absorbed do you have to be to completely forget about the people who surround you on a daily basis? Even if you don’t interact with your neighbors, do you forget that they exist and have sleep schedules and jobs? I’m sure that we all get wrapped up in our own little worlds more often than we realize, but I do wonder how many people wander the earth just completely oblivious to how their presence effects those around them. Just flinging their energy around, good or bad, with no knowledge or care of where it sticks or what impact it makes.
I still haven’t met the Stallion. I have no idea what he looks like. I wonder if it would make a difference to him if he knew our names or what we were like? Would he behave the same way? Would he behave worse? At this point, I’m not planning on going out of my way to meet him and Dean and I plan to chose to be amused by his behavior for the most part, as long as it doesn’t affect our sleep. But I may try to pay attention to ways that I interact with people especially when my mind is occupied elsewhere. Who know’s who we are ‘Stallion’ to when we’re not being careful!