invisionary: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist." (Default)
[personal profile] invisionary
Gather up kids, it’s time for Uncle [ profile] ravenshrinkery’s tales of living in the big city!

Of course, by the big city, I mean the crappy capital of New York which were it not for the academic opportunities and seat of government power wouldn’t have much of a reason to be here. The days of being a commerce hub are long over. The neighborhood known as Arbor Hill doesn’t have many trees left. The landlords usually don’t live anywhere near the area.

(Brief digression: I’ve written about the absentee slumlord problem in the past, notably this unsent letter. If you would like to read more feel free to go back in the archive. It is here:

It was a good government job for [ profile] cheshire23, just having completed her Masters in Public Administration, that brought us here. It was short notice and so we took whatever housing we could get that would allow for a minimum deposit (we didn’t have time to get the old one back from our previous landlord). It took us to a part of town known as the student ghetto, as it served as off-campus housing for a number of the area colleges (two in fact are within walking distance). We later found out the street we lived on housed a notorious local gang kingpin, discovered when he was arrested on a long list of charges. Yet he had nothing to do with what made our lives a living hell – it was the troll in our building’s dungeon.

His name was Nick. Being avid Harry Potter fans, we called him Nearly Brainless Nick, which eventually got shortened to Brainless.

I wasn’t so much of a journaling type before Brainless entered our lives, but seeing as though we might need to obtain legal recourse against him, I kept a log. The full log is 17 single-spaced pages in Word, and those sections written then I have italicized here for easier reading. I cannot adequately describe my memories, so let me give you the first snippet from my log:

1/21, 3:32 PM: Obscenities from Nick from his apartment. Alex is stomping around, however I am not inclined to stop her. Not only is it within noise hours, but she has been energetic all day. Maybe if she runs it out of her now she will get to sleep at a better hour than she did last night when she was forced to keep her energy pent up and thus allow him and us to get rest during quiet hours.

6:16PM: Indiscriminate shouting in Nick’s apartment. Completely uncertain what his provocation was – the only noise being made at the time was a laser printer powering up (Alex was laying down in her crib).

9:11 PM: A few minutes earlier we had attempted to put Alex to bed. We were unsuccessful and running around she went. This got a shout of “Relax!” from Nick. Why that, I cannot postulate. We attempted to crib her again – as of the writing she seemed like she might calm, but one can never tell with a small one.

9:22 PM: Clearly our attempts to settle Alex have failed and have roused Nick’s ire with banging on our floor. She was not running around – she was alternating drinking from a bottle and screaming at the top of her lungs and continues to do so – why, we have yet to determine, try as we might. Shortly thereafter we managed to settle her but this is looking like it could be a tenuous night.

Somewhere in all of this he upgraded to a baseball bat. Some time after that things came to a head that involved calling the police. These things are relative, after all.

A very clear shout was heard from Nick that “Next time I see you I’m going to kick your ass you motherfucker”. It took about a minute’s deliberation before I decided I’d had enough and had to put my personal safety and that of my family first and called the police.

They were fairly slow about responding – then again that’s understandable so long as nobody is being actively hurt. Alex was continuing to run around while we cleaned the house, so instead of banging on the floor this time he decided to turn off our circuit breakers. The panels for the house are in our basement directly across from his door. Given his freshly made threat I saw the timing of this power outage as rather suspicious and called the police back advising them that this was very possibly an attempt to draw me out so he could attempt an assault (and that even if he was not the cause I felt justifiably fearful to go down to the panel to restore power until the matter was resolved). The police were at our door in about ten minutes.

It worked for a few days, but I didn’t expect peace to last. It more or less continued like this:

4/4 4:52PM: My name must now be “Asshole”, as that’s how he’s addressing me when he shouts up here. He had been making random noises, some of them vulgar, while Alex was still. I am guessing that he is no longer around during the days since I hear nothing over him.

5:45PM: AJ just got home and Nick immediately started in banging on the floor while Alex was bouncing to greet her. I can’t help but think the timing is suspect here, given that he would have seen her approaching the house.

4/29 5:01 PM: Alex has been extremely difficult today and Nick is not making it any better. Papers are due today as usual and he is deciding that he wants to be an obnoxious git and bang on the floor in response. We are fleshing out the details of an offer on the house which will likely be signed and agreed by tomorrow, in time for us to give notice and end this odyssey in a month. While he is rather annoying me and I don’t like Alex not feeling well, if I have no choice in the matter, I have little concern for whether or not he is happy.

5:05 PM: Maybe against my better judgment, I decided to try something that would serve both purposes. I started playing her xylophone. On the floor. Above his head. I know this gets his goat, but in the middle of the afternoon, I really didn’t care. It pissed him off, but over the radio and the noise I was making with Alex, I couldn’t hear his obscenities. Alex loved it, and she stopped crying. He got a little more aggression out on the floor, but well, I didn’t expect it to stop the other way. At least one baby stopped crying.

By the end of June enough was enough. I can’t remember exactly what happened, as I certainly wasn’t in my best frame of mind. He had somehow provoked me into thinking that this would never end. I couldn’t keep the idea that this would be over soon enough out, even though we were in the middle of closing on our house. I was ready to end this once and for all. I went for the kitchen and I grabbed a chef’s knife. I was carrying a large Maglite with my off-hand. I was ready to kick his door down. I was forcibly held back to prevent this and promptly taken to a local psych hospital.

The log didn’t include any of the aftermath of my inpatient stay. Not much changed; he kept up his antics right up until we left. The new landlords got to hear him for themselves as they were doing other work on the place – he really scared a painter who had no idea how we could have stood that for the last several months. The very last day he was singing about how shitty I was and what a shitty family I had and how I was a faggot, etc. almost right up until I walked out the door for the final time.

Not long after it was all over I lost any sense of desire for vengeance against him. It was obviously enough torture for him to be trapped in his own head. Those days we used to play armchair psychiatrist and suggest back and forth what we would medicate him with (Risperdal extended-release injections were our most common choice). With the clear head that comes from peaceful living I can now say I genuinely wish the best for him, but I doubt it will ever come his way. Sadly the usual way people like Brainless get help is when they cross the line too far and end up getting in through the criminal justice system.

Every now and then I would drive down the old street and see if there was any sign of him there. I only very rarely saw him on the street (he was a dungeon troll after all, and they don’t like light as a rule). The blinds were just as wrecked as always and if you looked closely you could see between them the destroyed ceiling. It had to have been a constant reminder of just what evil humans we must have been, long after we were gone. I speculated that maybe after we left some college students would move in and have loud parties over top of him, people who would care a lot less about him banging on the ceiling because they were banging even louder.

It was a late afternoon at the end of June, two years after we left, when I saw him with a couple of buddies and his possessions on a trailer – and him sitting on them while it was going down the road. We’d been living in another town about fifteen miles away for the last two years. I have no idea whatever happened to him, although every now and then I check the local police reports to see if his name among others is in them.

So why did I write this? It’s easy enough to say in the situation that sure, it will get better when it’s over, but that’s not much comfort to you when you’re having your floor rattled and insults hurled at you. I knew even then that someday I would remember this and laugh at it all. People told me this all the time. Sure enough, I do. Yet this is an almost universal experience, having someone making your domestic life miserable, and I want to acknowledge that pain for those who may be reading this and having such a situation, be it a neighbor, partner, roommate, or relative. Just because you know you’ll laugh it off later doesn’t do a good goddamn to make you feel better and I’m tired of people using this excuse as a copout for any tough but time-limited situation.

I want to make it crystal clear: I acknowledge your pain. I’ve been there. Just because the trauma will be over soon does not change the fact that it sucks NOW. Words only help so much. You have the right to all of your emotions.


invisionary: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist." (Default)
Invisible Revolutionary

December 2011


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