We have a crazy neighbour. And when I say crazy, I don’t mean he looks a bit weird and we imagine that all he does behind closed doors is knit ornamental dogs. I mean certified, bat-shit crazy. I mean: we never accidentally glance at his house as we walk past, we keep our voices down in the day as well as at night, we live in fear of his actions, kind of crazy. I feel that he is a story that should be told, because I genuinely worry for the future of anyone in his proximity.
Now, this psycho-killer-waiting-to-pop works in waves. He knows the rules. He knows full well the guidelines on warrants for arrest or prosecution, and, upsettingly, he plays just within those rules. He has been harassing us on and off since we moved in next door, and has now been quiet for a while. The other day, he came back into our lives. So, I did what anyone would do. I put on some calm music and tried to get into the head of a killer.
About half the literate world (at least, surely) must have written an angry letter in their time. I understand the urge behind this. I am there. So when The Neighbour’s letter came through our door in January, six weeks after we moved in and dropped him a ‘hello’ Christmas card, I wasn’t unfamiliar with the sentiments. Though unreasonable in both exaggerated perception of his personal rights – I am hitherto unaware of any one person’s claim to control over another’s freedom to express themselves via ‘female squeals and laughter’ (this highlighted as a particular crime in itself) – and the use of punctuation, I could fathom the kind of frustration and pent-up anger that lead to his letter coming into being, and coming into being in our hands. So far, only the vast lines of exclamation marks and the clearly-fury-induced typos (his vocabulary lead us to believe he was fairly intelligent – later disproved; perhaps he was just sitting on thesaurus.com for the duration of this pedantic fit) were the only really worrying red flags. Oh, apart from the mention of his past incarceration, and the scene he painted in no impressionistic form of his having “always had problems with the occupants of no. 3”. In my world, that rings alarm bells anyway, but to make out that it was no. 3’s fault was clearly ridiculous. You are the constant… you are the problem. You think he’d take the hint. No. The Neighbour is so impenetrably, immovably set in his paranoia, his obsessive games, that I am sure he will never see the light.
This idea weighs on me a bit; not least because we intend to stay in this house for the forseeable future. I have suffered at least all my adult life from this unbearably pseudo-intellectual kind of hubris; wanting to teach lessons everywhere I go. Exhibit A: Teabag stains on and around kitchen bin. Clean them up? No. Draw red chalk circles around each one and leave for guilty party to notice and feel embarrassed into action. Sometimes, this is satisfying, even if it doesn’t get results. Like a generous charity-giver, I feel I have done my bit. The world is now a better place, and I can sleep well knowing I have not neglected bad behaviour. Put in these terms, it sounds mortifyingly narcissistic and fascist even, but it centres around my unflinching desire to stick to what I believe in. Mainly good manners and avoiding waste.
The Neighbour will not be taught. He will not speak civilly, he will not listen or consider long enough to change his opinions, he will not branch out from this blinkered view of life that is stuck in his own house and yard, and relates only to everything outside that in a painfully negative connection with his own property. It must be tiring. The man has a red, raw face and a fat belly. He is front-heavy, surprisingly stocky on second glance, and always looks out of breath. He moves like a lumbering tortoise. Were they creepy and aggressively poisonous.
So, being at a stalemate of stolid grudges and behaviours, we play his game for a while. We turn off our shower fan – one of his main complaints – until we realise our bathroom is getting damp, and we could be liable to our landlord. We stop playing music (or anything loud) by 11pm sharp. We stop talking in our yard and tend to stay indoors. We even keep the cat inside more often to feed and sit, to avoid his power hose shenanigans (These being the most obvious and inexcusable of his calculated, sickening ‘retaliation’ against us and the world. When she’s left the garden, you can stop. You don’t need to hold it over the wall on her until she cowers into a gap she’s too big for between our two walls, and keep it there so she has no escape.) It makes me furious and sick in the pit of my stomach to recall everything he’s done. There is no hint of innocence about it, not a smack of any remorse or openness to letting old grudges go as long as we can all act peacefully and respectfully; just a cold, hard, indomitable mission to make us as miserable as he is.
And that is the nearest I can find to a reasoning of it all. Ex-navy, ex-alcoholic, now-stoner and completely holed-up agoraphobic sociophobe, he is caught in his own stale saga of dramatic arguments over nothing. And he refuses to do it alone. For someone claiming, “I just want to be left alone,” and requesting, “Do not attempt to contact me,” this man puts himself out there a foreboding amount. He insists on stalking the street up and down past our window regularly, just to stare through at us. He does the same in the alley behind our houses, staring up at our back windows. He even, on occasion, stalks calmly past the shop I used to work at, and that my housemate still does. The man is dangerous. He makes us uncomfortable in our home, at work, in the street, in our yard. He is wholly unpleasant and unrelenting. He is constantly on the verge of explosion; shouts and swears whenever he sees us or our cat, and actively seeks out confrontation, while apparently avoiding it, or at least keeping at a safe distance such as his bathroom window, when he wants to hurl some proper, loud, unmistakable abuse. And anyone who builds a rack to fill with electric drills, move up against an adjoining wall and leave on while they go out for hours, is a dedicated, certain psychopath.
I could write a book on The Neighbour, but I feel I’ve got out all I can, or need to, at this point. I know someone out there will relate to this or have worse stories. I just want it to be known now that this man has been noticed, and is worth preventing from becoming a killer, if he isn’t one already.
- Neighbour accused of stabbing 95-year-old (radionz.co.nz)