Across from the guy downstairs: Scream 2

The four-hundred pound, single mother of twin 17-year old boys and caregiver of her drug addicted daughter’s special needs child made her way upstairs.

Thirteen steps.

Boom. She spends all day at home. Boom. Sometimes she walks out to her backyard. Boom. If the neighbors across from me happen to be out on their balcony, she tries to strike up a conversation. Boom. So, I know these facts about her life. Boom. Because, it’s not really a conversation. Boom. It’s a screaming recital of all her problems. Boom. Her voice sounds like the highest note on a tuba. Boom. Lots of air pushes through to make a short sound. Boom. She might as well have been a tuba player, she walks around like she has one strapped on to her body. Boom. Which is why, I believe, she can’t use the washing machine upstairs. Boom. Because she can’t make it up the stairs with a laundry basket. Boom. So, she washes everything by hand and hangs it, not on a clothesline, but on her fence. Boom.

It’s while she does this that she screams her life story to whoever is sitting in the balcony. I heard how all her family turned their back on her. How she’s all by herself with these children with no support system. That her daughter ran-off with some guy, instead of focusing on her recovery, and abandoned her child. I heard how she had to get rid of her car. I heard enough, frankly.

I heard enough to understand that this woman was a stage five moocher, first-class woe-is-me queen, a master manipulator, and a border-line crazy that can either snap or die at any moment.

I’m serious.

These are the types of people who you open your home and your heart to because you figure they’re having a rough time and discover that they are vampires – and not the sexy kind. These suck you dry of your compassion and empathy and money and patience – and time. By the time they are done with you, they’ve ransacked your house, raided your fridge, raped your dog and clogged the toilet.

It was 11:00 at night. I wasn’t about to let anyone in my house and certainly not her. But there she was, upstairs, in my territory. From my living I can feel her staring at my door. I wondered if she could feel me, staring right back.

She had already knocked on my neighbor’s door a couple of times, but they didn’t answer. I was committed to the same approach. She was going to have to beat down my door, because I was not getting up from my chair.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock

Excuse me, but who the hell knocks on a neighbor’s door five times at eleven o’clock at night – for the first time. This is the first official contact she’s ever made and it’s a crappy first impression, only excusable if it was truly an emergency. But, I can tell already, it’s not. If it was a real emergency, she would just call 911. In the time it took her to get upstairs, first responders would’ve been submitting their incident reports. And, if her phone was dead, she would’ve yelled for help from downstairs. We all would’ve heard her.

So, I was pretty comfortable to just ignore the knocking, just like my neighbor, and ignore the crazy. My partner, however, not so much.

“What are we going to do?” She whispered.

“Nothing.” I mouthed.

Until…

KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.

And, I snapped. Like a crazy werewolf. How dare anyone knock on my door that way. As if the door represented my shoulder and I was being shoved into a fight. I sat up on the edge of my chair, enraged like a juice-head Guido defending my skanky girlfriend’s honor and I barked the most intimidating, foaming-at-the-mouth version of, “WHO IS IT?” that has ever been uttered by a woman.

And then, the tuba played.

“Uh. Hi. This. Is. Your. Neigh.bor.From.Down.Stairs.”

Silence.

As I was about to say, “It’s 11 o’clock at night, please come back tomorrow,” my partner covers my mouth and gives me the look. The look of the responsible adult. The there-could-be-something-really-wrong look. The don’t-be-an-asshole look. The if-you-would-get-a-real-job-maybe-we-could-move-from-this-dump look.

So, I blinked. Which translated into you can remove your hand over my mouth so you can handle this your way. And she did.

She went out to the corner of the balcony, where the front door to our apartment is visible and there we heard the most convoluted story about one of her sons getting hit by a car in Hialeah and wanted to know if we knew of any hospitals where he might be in Doral.

Did you say,” Huh?” So, did I.

Look out for her full story and a fact check/common sense check of it tomorrow.

If you haven’t noticed, you are in the middle of a three-part series. Don’t be scared. It’s like walking into a two-some and being invited.

The guy downstairs: Background

This is a multi-part investigative report of the guy that lives downstairs. I’m not a nosy neighbor, normally, but this guy is weird. And by weird, I don’t mean creepy (although I did cross-check him with the registered sex offender database, as you’ll read later) I mean he just doesn’t fit in. His flashy car and odd company led me to search public records. And I found plenty.

I grew up in Miami. I grew up in Miami in the eighties. I grew up in Miami in the eighties and couldn’t tell the difference between the news and Miami Vice. There was no difference between good guy and bad and there was no difference between money and dirty money. There was just money to be made from the people who had it. So even if you ran a respectable business, like my dad’s accounting firm, chances were pretty good that you would come across questionable transactions with shady individuals. It was the eighties.

And it wasn’t just the adults that had to smile in the face of ridiculous lines like: “I bought my Rolls Royce with the money I made selling shoes.” No, we were amongst children who were spoiled with every material thing their hearts desired. Mercedes convertibles were handed out before they received their driver’s license. Quinceañera parties were held at posh hotels with real horse-drawn carriages and pyrotechnics. The after prom or homecoming party was always held at their parent’s beach house with alcohol and without adult supervision.

Those kids grew up without a sense of normalcy. They thought everybody’s house was outfitted with cameras and that everybody’s father had a really high-stress job in a clothing store, which made him live in an isolated cloud of paranoia. They were awaken by the sounds of their mom’s sobbing on the telephone with the news that their cousin was in jail, their uncle had disappeared or that their father had been shot. And us other kids were their friends. They would confide in us all their problems, which made our silly conundrums over boy crushes, bullies and bra stuffing seem insignificantly mundane. Yet, they gave us the gift of street smarts, an awareness of the gritty life of a mobster and the ability to detect who is part of the club.

The violence of the eighties wore us all out. So, new hustles were born: Medicare fraud; real estate fraud; Ponzi schemes; fake clinics; fake law suits; money laundering; construction contracts; buying cops; buying commissioners; buying elections; campaign contributions and prostitution rings. Nothing too serious. At least nothing that would get your entire family kidnapped, tortured and killed. Just a little public humiliation and jail time.

With all the possibilities it’s hard to tell a questionable person’s angle — but it is always easy to detect that they’re questionable to begin with. And it’s not about working from home or having odd work hours or living in the biggest house in a crappy neighborhood or driving a flashy car or wearing jewelry. It’s not their race or their education level or their religion.

It is their arrogance. It is their level of self-centered-ness. It is their sense of entitlement for no reason other than they are better than everybody. An I-deserve-all-of-these-things-because-I’ve-suffered/worked hard/known/was told-all-my-life mentality. The sense of proving parents or siblings or just their fellow-man wrong in the way that they were able to succeed and acquire material wealth. And that they would force their families and loved ones to accept their occupation without any hint of opposition, at whatever cost to their lives. That level of arrogance is extremely easy to detect. It suffocates when it walks into a room filled with regular people and it makes a mockery of the judicial system when it finally gets dragged into court in handcuffs.

I get that from the guy downstairs. I get that from his ridiculous, all-the-extras Lexus sedan, which screams I’m trying to look respectable. And no, I’m not jealous of the car or his wealth, whatever it may be. I’ve been around plenty of it. New money, old money, no money and private island money. It’s the sentiment. It’s the I’m better than you because I have the balls to go out and do something illegal, multiplied by I made all this money and I will only use it for my amusement, instead of trying to better myself and my community – unless there’s something in it for me like a tax break or a silent auction item or fame or gratitude. Gross.

What I can’t figure out is which on of the nine rings of the new hustle does the guy downstairs fit in. In the eighties it was easy. He would’ve been a low-level runner in my book. Safe enough to live with and knowing eventually the police would knock down his door at some ungodly hour. But with all the possibilities today, I can’t be sure.

Tomorrow, I’ll publish my initial observations of him and how they match up to what I found on the public records database. I heart the internet.

The dude’s real name and address will not be disclosed.