Who Are the People in your Neighborhood?

As my time in San Antonio begins to draw to an end, I reflect back on the individuals who have made my time here memorable, forgettable, and regrettable. I won’t be speaking about the primary characters who I normally interact with at school and church. Rather, this post focuses more on the secondary characters found around our apartment complex we have grudgingly referred to as “house” (not to be confused with “home,” which is where the heart is) for the past year and a half.

In the beginning, transitioning from a college-town apartment setting was difficult. I discovered that people here REALLY don’t appreciate it when you walk into their house unannounced as I did so often previously. Even with my winning personality, I couldn’t prevent them from threatening me with management or the police. So I would have to take my search for 2 eggs elsewhere. Eventually, our nights became resigned to staying inside. We couldn’t even play on the apartment playground. Apparently you need children of your own to play, otherwise the other residents jump to conclusions when you respond to them that none of these children are yours.

There are a number of other frequent encounters between management and neighbors we experience here that, while providing great material to write about, will not be missed in the least when we move in 3 weeks.

When we moved into the complex, we were required to visit the office to get our lease signed. I went in a few weeks after my friend Adam to sign my part. As they dabbled in small talk (I hate small talk), they asked how the neighbors were. I responded that my corner room was fine, but Adam was constantly bothered in his room by the neighbor’s daytime noises and nighttime noises. Ignoring these complaints, the office lady formed a quizzical look on her face and asked “Both ya’ll don’t sleep in the same room?” Realizing where her assumption had taken her, I responded in a deadpan voice “We’re not gay.” Quickly trying to backtrack, she inquired about our current work as Mormon missionaries (which was actually a pretty good guess). But apparently outside of Utah or a college campus, two white men can’t live together if they’re not gay or Mormon missionaries.

We usually tried to avoid the management. But they would usually get us to come in by placing an eviction notice on our door telling us to vacate the premises within 24 hours or it would be done forcibly. We received no less than four of these throughout the year for “missed rent” which we had really paid. When we confronted them about it, they would cheerfully look up our account and magically find our paid rent. “Sorry about that, here’s a fig newton” they would happily say as I was shepherded towards the door, not having a chance to express the unnecessary stress I had felt.

On our walks between the office, to get the mail, or to our cars, we would usually pass by Nick. Nick is an older gentleman usually found on his porch at any given time of the day smoking a cigarette. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I can never get him to talk about anything other than the weather with me. Our conversations usually go like this:

M: Good morning/afternoon/evening!

N: Beautiful day (said regardless of the weather)

M: It sure is….

I’ll usually follow up with any type of question, but all that I get in reply is a toothless grin as Nick laughs and ignores the question. What baffles me even more is usually if someone is behind us, Nick will engage them in conversation and ask about some specific detail of their life. I guess I’ll just stick to the weather.

When we round the corner to our apartment, I’ll usually glance up at the building across from ours to see if business is open. Meaning, if the door of a specific apartment is open and there is someone sitting in the doorway, a number of Andrew Jacksons will score you a bag of pot. Occasionally we’ll notice random people climb the stairs, make the exchange and leave without a word being said. So, if you need a guy…ask someone else because I don’t know the guy.

However, our neighbors above us either know that guy or a different guy very well because most days when we come home, the neighbors upstairs have lit up and the poor ventilation pushes the smell down and into our apartment. All the candles we’ve gone through to get rid of the smell have gotten way too expensive.

The person we probably know the most (which isn’t saying much) is a 10-year-old kid whose name I still can’t pronounce. I threw a football back to him one time and from that point on, he frequently shows up at our door to play. When we answered the door one day, he started coming in our apartment when he saw our PlayStation and we had to tactfully get him back outside because he probably wouldn’t have understood if we tried to explain that his parents probably wouldn’t like him going into a strangers house.

But the boy is relentless. Another time, I was home alone watching TV when there’s a knock on the door. I immediately know it’s him because no one else has ever come over. Not wanting to answer the door, I quickly turn out the lights as the knocking turns into him kicking our door. As I go into my room, I hear our gate door open and the see the silhouette of someone peering through our glass door appears. As the silhouette disappears, I breathe a sigh of relief right as the front door opens and I hear a voice yell “HELLO?!” Figuring I have no choice at this point, I run my hand through my hair to give the appearance of bedhead and squint as if just waking up from a nap and walk out. It takes another 5 minutes, but I he eventually leaves after I tell him how tired I am among some other lies.

Now, those of you who may be judging me for lying to a little kid, I was simply doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. You had to be there.

There were also gunshots in the neighborhood. But I’m not familiar with those neighbors.

Neighbors are a part of life’s experiences to be embraced for better or worse. I’m moving to Fort Worth, TX in January. We’ll see what uncomfortable experiences await me there.

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