The Ballad of the Broken Neighbors


It first came on Sunday night, a man’s voice, from the direction of my windows to my right. I had my ear buds in and had been laying in bed, watching movies, as usual. My first thought was that a guy was watching a sporting event and was just generally being a dick and being really passionate about a goal that was scored.

But then I heard a much softer female tone answer. I could tell she was in tears but I couldn’t make out what she said. Then he again exploded: “FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Then he punched something, hard, multiple times. It may have been the wall, or it may have been a piece of furniture, but I don’t think it was her. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I got out of bed. This building is old, built somewhere around 1910, and the floors are the original wood. They creak with every step I take no matter how quiet I try to be.

I went to the kitchen, and it seemed to be slightly louder. I could hear them both. I have a very tiny apartment, only 360 square feet, and much of the wall space is covered with art, so it was really difficult for me to find any blank wall to put my ear to. By the time I did, they had stopped. I hovered for a while but everything stayed quiet. I slowly walked back to bed, wondering if they were truly done.

At around 12:30 a.m., there was another outburst. “FUCK! FUCK YOU! STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! JUST SHUT UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!” More crying from her, and words, but I still couldn’t hear what she was saying. I got up and they stopped. I got into bed again and wondered when they moved in, because I hadn’t heard anything like it before from that space below me.

At around 9:00 the next morning, the yelling started again. I got out of bed and laid down on my floor so I could put my ear to the floor boards. I could hear them walking around, I could hear the air moving between their bodies and their ceiling/my floor, I could even hear them making holes somewhere close to me – maybe to hang electronics, or pictures? I felt like I was in a movie, where the cinematographer shows how close one character is to the other, and all that is separating them is one flimsy piece of board. I wondered if they could hear me breathing. I tried to hold my breath.

I heard him say, “Why do you always fucking do this?!” and I know that she answered because I heard her voice, but it was still too quiet and tearful to make out the words. Then it was silent except for their bodies moving, and the periodic pounding into the plaster. After about 15 minutes I got up from my place on the floor because it was becoming far too painful to maintain, and I started getting ready for my caseworker to visit. As soon as I did, the yelling started again.

When my caseworker arrived at around 1:30 p.m., I warned her that the couple in the apartment below mine had been fighting, and she would likely hear it. About three minutes later, we heard the guy again, just as loudly as all of his other rants. He never seemed to tire. I imagined that the woman was exhausted.

His rage continued for a total of 15 hours on Monday. He hit something again too. I still don’t think it was her, but it set me on edge. The last screaming rant was around 12:30 a.m. again; I had my ear buds in watching my final movie of the night trying to get tired enough to sleep and his screaming penetrated the ear buds.

For the next two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, he had screaming fits again, but not for the 15 hours that he did on Monday. On Wednesday I typed up a text to forward to the property manager but at the last second deleted it. Then an hour later, a notice was slipped under my door saying that we were getting completely new apartment managers (our 7th and 8th in a year and a half), and to be patient during the transition. That’s why my instincts wouldn’t allow me to text the now-fired old manager!

Today at lunch I took a chance and stopped by the office, which is located directly across from the new tenants’ apartment. I pulled the door shut, introduced myself, and told the new managers that I heard abusive behavior from the male tenant of the two. The new managers said that maybe the guy was just watching a game or playing XBox. I said that was bullshit, and that the woman had been crying. Then one of the managers said that yes, she had seen the woman crying. Then they said they didn’t see any marks on the woman’s face. I told them that didn’t mean anything, and by the way, women don’t cry over scores that men get while playing XBox. They said that I could always call the cops if I needed to. I am fine with that – and I will, do not doubt that – but here’s my problem: I have to actually do things to get ready to get to the front door to let the cops in that people who are able-bodied don’t think twice about. We have a secured front door without an intercom. Plus I am the only apartment within close proximity of the asshole, they don’t touch walls with anyone else (even though my next door neighbor heard him shout once), so when I report him, he’s going to come after me.

The new managers assured me they would talk to the new tenants. I went back to my apartment and laid down, and then someone started banging on my door and buzzing the ancient doorbell. I had to say “Just a minute!” more than a few times to get them to stop. After putting my wig back on, I opened the door to discover one of the managers there; she apologized and said she should have called instead of knocked, but then said that the woman said the man was playing with his XBox. I told the manager that that was absolute bullshit. The manager said that if I felt like the new neighbor was disturbing the peace, I was certainly welcome to call the cops, but she had to accept what the woman told her. I asked her if the woman came up with the XBox explanation on her own, or if the manager gave her that option as a possible “out,” and she couldn’t tell me.

So at this point, it’s me against the neighbors. Why do women stay? They just want the abuse to stop. They want their men to value them and to see how much they love them. They want their love to be enough to fix them. They don’t want to get their men in trouble. They need their men for financial support. I run the risk of both of them turning against me when I pick up the phone.

You had better believe I’m going to call it in.

5 thoughts on “The Ballad of the Broken Neighbors

  1. You are right, you will not be thanked unless she is really ready to leave.
    I was in an abusive relationship. I still can’t believe it. I’m a very strong woman. I believed I deserved the way he treated me. (it was mostly emotional).
    I’ve called the police on someone else before. They lied, nothing was done. They moved fast. I still fear for her.
    I’m sorry you have been put in this situation. It sucks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was in an abusive relationship before too – Drummer #2 was very emotionally abusive, and I can’t believe I was in it for a year with him because I think I’m strong and intelligent too. We are! And yet, someone manages to convince us otherwise. In fact, I’m not sure I know any women who haven’t been abused in some way, and I don’t mean that in any wishy-washy sort of way.
      It’s not irrational to fear for a woman’s life. My aunt was murdered in June of 1995. She is not the exception. And I think about other family members who stay in horrible marriages and relationships for decades because they think that is their lot; maybe they aren’t physically killed, but their souls are crushed every single day. That reminds me that I’m okay with being without a partner, if that is the alternative.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can say now, it doesn’t have to be that way. My husband is an amazing partner. The man who abused me was so manipulative. It’s hard to talk about it, because it’s hard for me to think of me putting up with that for so long.
        I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. It happens so much more often than we know. Spirits are destroyed every day by bullies who say they love you.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I love hearing about your success story! And I agree, thinking back to the manipulative one is especially difficult for exactly the reason that you said. And lastly, thank you; Mona was special, and her absence is still keenly felt.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I applaud your bravery. I have to admit, I’m scared of men like that. I’ve been retaliated against when I reported a similar situation to the police. After the police left, the man came over, yelling and banging loudly on my front door. Scared me something silly. I think the only thing that saved me was that my husband was there at the time. Not that he did anything, but his presence probably stopped the angry man from busting down the door. It’s not like the police can protect someone 24/7, you know, unless you’re Donald Trump.

    Loud and violent people like that have to realize that their neighbors can hear them. But which neighbor? I’d probably start taping signs to their front door or left on their car’s windshield, shaming this dude and signed by “All Your Neighbors.” And after that sign is taken down, the next one would be a plea to the woman to get help. And after that sign is taken down, I’d hang one up that said something like, oh, you a big man, bullying someone weaker than you. Grow up or move out. And the next sign would say, I’m reporting you to the police, a local domestic violence agency, and your employer.

    I suppose a note campaign is passive aggressive, but it’s not like I can protect myself. Because our local police can’t seem to find enough people who want to work for them, response time in my city is pretty slow. I refuse to buy a gun. And I don’t have the strength to swing a baseball bat. I can’t try to protect someone else when I can’t even protect myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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