Wednesday, May 10, 2006

If you ever wanna kill someone and get away with it, I know the perfect place to be the scene of your crime: The alley next to my apartment building.

Doesn’t matter that there are dozens of people living within a few yards of this narrow walkway and would hear everything… nobody will do anything about it.

They didn’t do diddly about the cat in heat REOWWRing out there every night last week. Finally I did. After spending a groggy hour hoping it would stop, I got dressed and went out there, but by then she was gone. The little pussy either got some action or decided to use another alley as her singles bar, or gave up and figured she’d start her attempts at a spring fling over again tomorrow.

I couldn’t help but wonder why my none of my neighbors reacted. Was I the only one who heard it? I ran into the guy on the corner unit and asked if he heard that horny kitty cacaphony at 6AM. “Yeah,” he said, “it actually started at four in the morning.” So did he consider going out there to stop it or see what was up? He shrugged.

Typical. I shouldn’t be surprised.

Last fall, I was sleeping late one weekend morning… or trying to -- the neighbors were all stirring, chirping their car alarms on and off, talking loudly on the phone, playing music… But among the noise, I thought I heard a voice saying “Help!”

It was faint, and it came every minute or so… so I thought at first I was dreaming… but then I’d hear it again. Then I wondered, does anybody else hear that? Any of these other residents, or are they too busy making their own noise?

I went outside toward that alleyway and listened. Nothing. Then, after another minute: “Help!” Again, it was quiet, so I wasn’t 100%...

“Is someone yelling help?” I said.

“Yes! Me!” It sounded like an older woman, her voice ricocheting between the two buildings, making determining the source difficult. But I pinpointed the apartment it was coming from -- in the building across from mine -- as she said through the window: “I slipped in the bathtub and I think I broke my leg.” Yes, the classic I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

I told her to hang on, I’d call 911 and get her some help. (I wasn’t going to help her myself – a) I probably wouldn’t assist her properly and b) seeing an old lady nekkid would traumatize both of us.) I had brought my cellphone out there and as I was giving the emergency operator the details… only then did one of the other tenants in my building come over to see what was up.

He said he thought he heard someone calling for help. But it wasn’t until he heard me talking was it confirmed that there was a problem, so that’s when he came over. I just told him to get the landlord to the adjacent building to open up the woman’s front door while I waited out front for the fire department.

After they arrived and went into her place to help her, I took off. I had to get going, run out and do whatever I had planned that day. That evening when I got home I saw the light on in the woman’s apartment. I considered going over to check on her, but decided for many reasons to leave it as an anonymous good deed.

Well, it wasn’t such a big deal. It’s what anybody should’ve done. I don’t know why my neighbors are the way they are.

A friend who lives in my building -- and is deaf in one ear -- told me later that he heard the whole thing. “You’re a hero, Mike,” he said. He was probably half-joking, 'cause really, I just called 911. That’s it.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to stop by the woman’s place is that -- like my neighbors, I suppose -- I’m not anxious to befriend everybody here. This isn’t a small town where everyone knows each other's business. But that doesn’t mean we should completely fucking ignore everything that goes on outside our door. This isn’t Bedford Falls, but it ain’t downtown Beirut either.

I dunno. Or maybe no one else minds hearing clumsy biddies and libidinous alley cats.


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