Monday, October 06, 2008

Good Fences

Last night I met my new downstairs neighbor. It went well considering that she appears to be a homeless alcoholic experiencing episodes of total delusion.

About 11pm I was reading when I heard a cat yowling over and over again. I followed the sound to my back porch, where I encountered a grey cat with yellow eyes making a noise as if it were being fed to a velociraptor. I went out on the steps, made some comforting cat noises, and the cat quieted down. It was then that I heard a voice coming from a half block away.

"I think she lives downstairs."

I looked into the void to see a girl in a third-floor window across the way.

"The door below yours was opened and I thought I saw the cat run out of there."

I went down the stairs and found neither door open, but soon heard a woman sobbing hysterically. I thought the hysterical crying might be a result of finding the cat gone, but before I could tap on the door the woman stopped crying and started shrieking like a banshee.

"And I said FUCK YOU! I said I weigh 100 pounds and you're an ex-football player! You weigh three hundred pounds! And then he starts beating the shit out of me! And then I said FUCK YOU!!!! FUCK YOU!!!!FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKK YOOOOOOUUUU!"

This gave me pause. Apparently she was yelling at someone still in the house, possibly someone who weighed three hundred pounds and was in the process of beating the shit out of her. I changed my mind about tapping on the door and settled in with the cat (now calmer, grooming itself and casually listening from the safety of my landing) to listen and see what I could glean.

Then the woman started sobbing again and I heard the other girl from across the way.

"I have an extra cat carrier. Is that a fight?"

I responded that I didn't know but would stay with the cat, who didn't seem to need a carrier because he was settling in on my porch.

Then I heard the sound of a large amount of glass shattering in the first-floor apartment (the cat looked up with mild interest) and the back door swung open, a tiny woman with a hospital bandage on her wrist and reeking of beer toppling to the floor.

"Are you for REAL?" She whispered at me. "Are you for fuck for REAL?"

"I think so." I responded.

"I'm so embarrassed. I want to die. I'm not drunk. I'm not drunk. I've been in the hospital for like, 4 months. Like I said, it's been four weeks. I just moved in. I'm your neighbor. Not psych. Not psych. Not psych. It's a baaad breakup, right?"

By this time the smell of this woman was making my eyes tear up and I was starting to get cold. I went over and helped her up.

"Is someone hurting you right now?"

Her eyes got wide and she started laughing hysterically and trying to grab my hair.

"Are you by any chance missing a cat?" I tried again.

"My baaaaaby! Where's my baaaaaby? Sweet kitty! Fuck!"

I took this to mean I'd hit on something with the cat.

"He's Nicolai. I mean, he's gone. Nicolai!" (sobbing).

"Is that Nicolai right there?"

She looked up the stairs to my landing. I took this opportunity to look in her open apartment door and ascertain that there was no hulking former football player running at me with a tire iron.

Then she fell up the stairs trying to get to her cat, who regarded her with mild interest and didn't come.

Lying on the stairs she hiccupped and started to sob again.

"I'm so embarrassed. Don't tell Maureen. Don't call anyone. Don't tell anyone. I'll be good. I promise."

Then she took off her shirt and showed me a four-inch-long newly-healed cut across her shoulder blade.

"Who did that to you? It looks fresh. Who's hurting you?"

No answer.

"Do you need me to call someone or find you a safe place to stay?"

More laughter. She started reaching for the cat.

"Do you want me to take your cat for a few minutes while you clean yourself up?"

She grabbed my wrists and dug in her nails, attempting to pull herself up but not succeeding.

"Nicolai! Nicolai! I know what I'm doing! I'm an animal lover!"

By this time I had her propped against the building wall and she started reaching for my face as if she couldn't really see me.

"You're so..I don't know. So so UM." Then she leaned forward as if to kiss me. I dodged and she nearly fell again.

I caught her and my sinuses seared from the smell.

Then she started sobbing again, mumbling fragments about a long-lost love of her life, the hospital (NOT psych, NOT psych) and how she had a dog once but after "that ended" she adopted Nicolai the cat.

Then she looked straight up at me.

"Come in my house. Come in my house. Help me move in."

"I'm sorry, but that's not going to work. I have to go inside now." By this time I was freezing, standing on the stairs in a T shirt, scrubs, and socks. "Are you sure I can't help you?"

She started laughing hysterically again, lunged at the cat, wrapped her arms around him, and then fell down the stairs again, pinning me to the railing.

I lifted her off me, removed her cat's claws from my forearm, and calmly took the cat away from her.

"I'll carry Nicolai if you can get down the stairs. Just hold onto me and come down the stairs."

"I can't." More hysterical laughter followed by sobbing.

"You have to. You can't sleep out here on the fire escape."

"I want to DIE."

"I know. But you should sleep first. Then in the morning if you still want to die we can talk again." (I don't know why I said this. I was flying utterly blind at this point.)

Finally, with her clutching me from behind around my neck and me holding Nicolai, who seemed nonplussed to be going home to Camp Psychosia, I got her down the stairs and into her house. She turned back to me, reached for my hair (I dodged again), then slammed the door in my face. Then as I returned upstairs she opened her door again and screamed, "Thank you so much! Thank you! Thank you so much!" Then her door slammed again and I realized my shirt smelled like a Wrigley Field men's room floor. I went inside, took it off, climbed into my bathtub for a while, and wondered if perhaps I should move to an isolated cabin somewhere in Montana.


Blogger Princess Lolly said...

to echo what my mom posted on my blog- come live with me. good god. and nicolai is a great name for a pet, owned by a psychopath or not.

9:48 AM  
Blogger thesaurasaurus said...

I concur. If I were to name a cat after any dead Russian, it would probably end up being a Nicolai. Or a Pasha.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

At least you made a new friend in Nicolai.
Do you want to stay in my guest room? Or just move in? I've been thinking I need a third cat too...Possibly grey...rescued from a psychohosebeast.

9:10 AM  
Blogger RebeccaZ said...

She sounds like a New Orleans-ite. And a psychohosebeast.

I love Wayne's World references.

But, in other news ....

TAG!!!! You're It!

(see my bloggy blog for details)

3:15 PM  

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