I have a neighbor that likes to stand on his patio in his underwear. He and his mother smell funny and they do a lot of strange things. But I love my building and my apartment and I guess putting up with them is not so bad when I have such a great thing going here.

But how much are you supposed to put up with when you live in such close proximity to people? images-1I mean, I really don’t want to see this guy out on his balcony, in his tighty whities smoking a cigarette and muttering to himself, or, better yet, screaming at his mother. And the idea that we’re sharing walls makes it even sketchier in my mind.

The other problem with sharing walls is that you share animals and bugs, too. City vermin. I’ve never had beg bugs, imagesbut they live in the walls. That means if my neighbor has them, chances are I’ll get them. Roaches live in the walls, mice and rats live in the walls…the two times we did see a mouse here, it got scared and ran into apartment #12 next door. Guess that’s where his nest was?

When I start to think about how close all my neighbors are, literally a few feet away from me, I start to feel strange. So I try to pretend that they’re farther away than they really are.

But parts of their lives are, like my neighbor in apartment #8, too exposed. Why do I know that the man next door doesn’t get along with his mother? Why do I know that he likes to leave the apartment in a huff at 5am? Why do I know that he has one friend, another 40-year-old man, whom he talks to on the phone often and who comes to visit him once a week? And that during the summer, the clothes come off and the Italian music comes on? Why do I know that the man in apartment #12 plays his upright piano constantly, but can’t carry a tune? And that he has Sunday brunches with German friends who like to practice their English even though they speak French perfectly well? And, more importantly, that mice like to nest in his apartment?

It’s so strange that I’ve never met any of these people face-to-face, yet I know some of the intimate details of their lives.