When you live in a city like New York, you certainly don’t expect that much in the way of real privacy. You expect city privacy. When you are upset on the subway, most people will leave you be. When you are changing in your window, people will look but never call out to you. In general, people leave you alone. They watch you from the periphery of your life with the respect to leave you alone in your little part of New York. But sometimes, they let it out and they get their crazy all over you in a big sloppy mess.
Finally moving out of my Chinatown apartment, after years of struggle with the heat, the hot water, the noise, the smells, the spitting, the elbows, the alienation, I could go on, I finally had enough. I had my fill of never leaving the city. Of stepping out the door directly into the noise and filth and constant stream of people, a tide that never ebbs inthis city.
Moving out of my place, though a small space, was no small feat. I have accumulated 4 and half years worth of books, furniture, comics and clothes that all needed to be moved. I put a bunch of old things on Craig’s List to get rid of them. Lucky for me, I ran into my upstairs neighbor Jim. Jim is the apartment managers younger brother who lives upstairs with his parents, a not uncommon situation in Chinatown. He has helped me in the past bring up groceries or other large parcels to my my 4th floor walk up. It’s always a help.
He offers to help me with the shelves and the mattress. I am so grateful for his help as it’s a hot day and I am just one.
As we are waiting for the first set of people to come for the shelves, Jim and I get to talking. He starts out by telling me that we should pinky swear because he has something to tell me about a visitor. Ok…
The conversation quickly devolves into details that are more personal than I want to know. Jim feels like he can say what ever to me now that I am leaving. He proceeds to tell me that he is a virgin. He wants to learn from me. I start getting a little uncomfortable and I let him know that I really don’t have anything to contribute. He says, “I know that you do.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Jim, “You know, I can hear everything upstairs. Everything.”
“In late 2008 and early this year, you were crying a lot. I wanted to come down and hug you or talk to you, but I didn’t think that you would answer the door. Why were you crying?”
“I was crying?”
“I was breaking up with my boyfriend.”
“Oh. The one you had for a long time?”
“Yes, that one.”
“He was good though right?”
“Yeah. Good. I can hear it all.”
“So, no boyfriend now? What are those guys then? Just one night stands?”
He goes on to tell me that he knew when I was masturbating or if I was watching porn. When I had men over, when I was upset. Could he see me too?
Not only is he listening, turns out he is keeping tabs on me as I come and go. At this point my internal monologue turns into, “OMG! FREAK FREAK FREAK.” It quickly turns to, how can he hear everything. The cielings in this place are over 13 feet high. The floors are solid. I sleep on the floor and I can barely hear my neighbors when I know that they are blasting the TV. Then I remember the heating pole. How the plaster around it fell down and I had them replace only to have it fall down again a week later. I just thought that it was the old building settling or the heat from the pipe expanding. Now, I think, he pushed it down. I am also thinking, Shit. Shit. Shit. I haven’t got my deposit back! I can’t tell him what for because his sister has control of my money. I feel trapped. How am I going to get out of this.
The first Craig’s lister comes. We move the stuff out.
“When you first moved in, I thought that you were a model or something like that. What size is your waiste?” he asks me on the stairs.
“I have no idea, Jim.”
We get back inside. He sits on the couch. I pretend to check my voice mail. Pretend to have a lunch date. I need him to get gone. He tells me that he is really turned on right now and aren’t I?
“Not at all.”
“By turned on, I just meant the heat.”
“Well, I am not going to see you again, am I? Maybe could you kiss me?”
“No, just no.”
“What about a hug? I just want some one to hold me. Some physical connection.”
“Jim, no. That is really creepy. You have to leave right now. I am going to lunch.”
Here, I hope to never see him again. But the next day, I have to go back to meet the movers. As I am getting into the cab to go to my new place in Brooklyn, he runs up to me and grabs my arm, “Here is your paper. Will you be my friend on Facebook?”
“Sure. Just send me a request.” Hits the mental block button.
You think that I should have just let this go, but this is the worst violation of my privacy, personal space and mind, even worse than the mugging that took place in that very same building. I have had a hard time with it. I am just starting to feel back to normal in intimate terms. Even in the new space. It was easier not to know, not to have his crazy dumped all over me like filthy sticky honey. If he had just kept his knowledge of me, his obsession to himself. But that’s not their nature. But now, I am away. He has no way to find me. The check has been cashed. I can safely call him the fuck up that he is and move on.