Monday, January 05, 2009
SON OF FIVE & A HALF
These are the shoes that launched a thousand ships.
When I lived in New York, I basically had half my apartment stored in the hallway outside my front door. Everything from the air conditioner to a broken vacuum cleaner, seven trash bags filled with clothes, wire desk organizers, plates, two bathroom gift sets and a pair of crusty pajamas that sat on top of the pile for approximately three years. No one ever said anything. Why would they? No one cared that the fire escape was perpetually blocked by the sports nut next door neighbor's giant duffle bags of sweaty gym clothes and various baseball bat collections. No one cared that the painter downstairs would consistently drag his giant canvases into the tiny, unventilated hallway and proceed to spray them down with toxic paint fumes, then leave them there for weeks, sometimes months on end. No one moved a muscle to clean up the dead mouse on the second floor. Or to remove the plaster chunks when the ceiling caved in....again. The only thing you had to "worry" about was your piles of shit outside your apartment getting stolen when the crack addict on the 1st floor quit N.A. and went back to using. My rollerblades (used once) disappeared around then. I think I finally noticed the following year. 'Cause no one cared.
The least of all....me.
But now I live in a fancy building in France. Where seemingly everyone cares. Deeply. Emotionally. About EXACTLY what I choose to leave in the hallway outside my front door. Fortunately for me, I am the foreigner in the building whose wide smile and frequent, terribly improper tendency of using the familiar CA VA?!!?? (and way too loud) with everyone I see has...
a. rendered me so dimwitted I am not to be spoken to EVER
b. rendered me so frightening and so toxic I am not to be looked in the eye or have my presence acknowledged IN ANY WAY unless I am with the French husband
c. all of the above
The only one in the building who actually speaks to me is the concierge from Portugal. She's down with me 'cause I'm a foreigner like her and I keep asking her to teach me how to say her dog's name with the right Portugese accent. She had a conversation with FB while I was in New York about the "shoes situation" by our front door. Evidently, it has caused quite the stir in the building. This came as a surprise to me as we live on the top floor in an isolated hallway with no neighbors. No one has any cause to walk by our apartment unless they come up to look for something. I suddenly got the vision of the snoopy old rich ladies who live here coming up to rubberneck the foreigner with her foreigner ways, finding my well worn sneakers and recoiling in horror before running down to complain to the concierge.
It seems someone, or someONES.....care.
WHO, I wonder, WHO are the shoes actually bothering???
So naturally, we just left the shoes there.
Like shark bait. Waiting and wondering if they would come ask us directly while my suspicions about the identities of real complainers began to form....
FIVE AND A HALF, the REAL cuplrit.
We live on the sixth floor but technically it is the seventh floor because the apartment below us is on a half floor. It has a little half front door and it is the only apartment where I have never seen the woman who lives there. I know she is there all the time because I can hear her below me all day. I have seen the woman in FIVE peeking through a crack her door to stare at me as I come up the steps but FIVE AND A HALF has remained an unsolved mystery until....
ENTER SON OF FIVE AND A HALF
About a month ago, I was home alone when the doorbell rang. I froze in my usual terror before tiptoeing to the door and sheepishly answering. It was a man of about 45 years old and he asked for Veronique. I told him "Veronique for it has been six months moves and now I live here with my husband". He told me he was the son of the Madame who lives below me and asked to use my phone because she does not answer when he knocks on her door and he forgot his phone. I asked him to wait there, shut the door, returned and brought him my cell phone. He asked to use my home phone claiming it was cheaper but I insisted he use my cell phone in the hallway. He made his call, left and I thought nothing of it UNTIL.....
NEW YEAR'S EVE 9PM
I am in the kitchen preparing food for our friends who are coming over. FB opens our front door as he thought he heard someone outside and who is standing there? None other than SON OF FIVE AND A HALF. Again. But this time, he is just standing there. He seems taken by surprise but then proceeds to complain to FB about the "shoe situation", how it is REALLY out of control now and that this space is common space and it REALLY needs to be taken care of. And that we should watch out because things outside the apartment can get stolen. I'm sorry, is that a veiled threat in there? Dude, I dealt with a crack addict, SON OF FIVE AND A HALF doesn't scare me in the slightest. Go ahead, steal my shoes. I have six more pair exactly like them. And don't MAKE me go get an air conditioner for the hallway too, pal. I could have six plastic bags of crap out here faster than you can say GIVE ME THE MOTHERFUCKING ROLLERBLADES, I NEED SOME SMACK.
As our friends arrived at just that moment and filed past SOFH loudly with flowers and champagne, I had to wonder...why on earth did you feel the need to bring this up on New Year's Eve of all nights and more importantly...WHO SENT YOU??!!
WHO. IS. FIVE AND A HALF?!!
And how can she HATE MY SHOES when she NEVER comes OUT???!!
I moved the shoes inside today after realizing I had spent waaaay too much time on this and in the end, I didn't really care all thaaaaaat much. I grabbed my shopping cart, walked down the 7 flights of stairs, staring at the mysterious half door as I passed five and a half. As I walked through the courtyard, I felt someone staring at me. I quickly turned around and looked up directly at five and a half just in time to see the curtain rustle and move back into place. I stood there in the snow for a moment before smiling and waving.
FIVE AND A HALF.....who AAAAARE you?
The mystery continues......