Anne Rice moved in next door. Like a young Anne Rice. The Anne Rice that staged her fake funeral in New Orleans. By no coincidence, my new neighbor has Louisiana plates and I heard Fleetwood Mac playing from her apartment.
Before her, a forty-something Russian Patton Oswalt let that apartment. He hardly spoke English and rarely wore a shirt, proudly exhibiting his roundness. He worked nights as a driver and he regularly scraped and bumped his black Escalade against the wall, the pole and other cars.
The summer I moved in, his alcoholic, chain-smoking cousin, who strangely resembled a homeless Adrien Brody, slept on his couch. I can’t be sure that it was in fact his cousin, but the loud cyrillic yelling made me think my neighbor was pleading for this deadbeat to get a job.
That fall, Cousin Balki-Brody eventually moved out and immediately plunged into a life of crime. I know this, not because I breezed through Conversational Russian at Valley College, but because I applied my Miami Meter for Shady Neighbor Behavior and deduced that our favorite cousin had pulled a Scarface.
A few weeks after his move, his alleged cousin rolled up to apartment 9 wearing a bedazzled button-down shirt and thick gold bracelets. A few weeks after that, Al Putino had newly acquired a petite girlfriend who, I assume to the disapproval of his mother, was not Russian. This girl, whose name was most likely not Andrusha, would chauffeur him for his visits in a late-model SUV. And a few weeks after that, packages of large appliances began arriving at Chubby Tchaikovsky’s place with the same regularity of the cousin’s visits.
Throughout the winter, a refrigerator, a stove, a washer and dryer, flooring, and ceiling tiles made their way to different corners of our complex. They were not for the property manager, for she only makes appearances when there is a vacancy, they were for my neighbor. He often hid these large items in our community laundry room, in our shared parking garage, in his apartment and even in my apartment (the UPS guy guilted me into accepting delivery of three wall air conditioners when he wasn’t home). Eventually the cousin stopped making appearances, and a new tribe of young KGB-rejects began taking delivery of the Home Depot loot. Muscles under deep v-neck shirts, hidden eyes behind dark sunglasses and sweaty testicles squished by very skinny jeans lifted boxes onto trucks and whisked it all away, week after week.
One Saturday morning, I got one hell of a 3 a.m. wake up call that consisted of two quick, shallow bangs and a crash of glass. I peered out the window, but couldn’t see a thing in the darkness. It wasn’t until my morning dog walk that I discovered it had come from Boris Yeltsin’s Escalade. The entire back window was busted and millions of tiny pieces of glass were splayed across the concrete like shiny confetti.
I struggled with whether or not to knock on his door. Our conversations were limited to hellos. In the five months of being neighbors, he had knocked on my door twice, once for salt (which is supposed to bring the recipient terrible luck) and another time for duct tape (which I told him to keep, in case he gave it back with a dead person’s DNA). Yet, I felt obliged to be a good human and deliver the bad news. After knocking several times, he emerged, shirtless and covering his telephone with his man-boob. I said loudly, “Just wanted to check. You know about your car, right?” He answered yes twice and shut the door. And with that I was convinced the shattered glass was a failed hit against Beer-belly Baryshnikov.
A month later, he knocked on my door again. It was late. Maybe around nine, which is the equivalent of midnight in California. He was sweating, red and agitated. He began by apologizing profusely and then asked me for $20. I sent him away empty handed. Mainly because I didn’t have cash on me, but even if I did, I don’t think I would’ve given it to him. I wanted him as far away from my front door as possible in case Valery the Russian from The Sopranos was creeping around the corner.
I went to sleep that night anticipating to be woken up by a muffled argument, then the loud sound from a television, followed by the blast of a gunshot, but quite the opposite happened. The next morning there was a moving truck and before my coffee was brewed, he was nothing more than a missing Romanov. His apartment empty and the property manager on the premises.
“I am very sad to see Vlad go,” she said.
Of course his name was Vladimir. Of course those appliances were not a complicated scheme to bill Medicare or resell behind the Brandsmart in Carol City. No. Clearly those were for him and his new place (which may or may not be a grow house). And his window wasn’t smashed in as a warning, but most likely it was his own doing because he is a shitty driver. And he was probably short $20 to pay the mover and not the mobster. And his cousin is just a dick.
I realized I was wrong and that growing up in 1980’s Miami has clouded by objectivity.
However, I’m incredibly certain that the new lady next door has already begun assembling her coven, and quite possibly purchasing chickens for sacrifice.