Seventeen

img_2433

I’ve been staring at this photo for a while now. The way I would stare in a mirror while screaming Bloody Mary.

Who is that? And more importantly, whose pearls are those?

A twist of fate and a scheduling conflict will take me back to Miami next week – coinciding with my high school reunion. So, in an effort to mentally prepare for the terrible community play rendition of Hot Tub Time Machine that I’m about to headline, I rummaged through a box of mementos, read cringe-worthy letters and found this, my senior year portrait.

At first glance, I was reminded that while I was taking this picture, my boyfriend was sitting in the waiting room with the promise of reaching third base on the ride home. He was adorable, gentlemanly and sweet, but terribly flat chested and had a penis, which eventually caused our demise.

When I looked closer though, the me from 1996 had a prophetic message embedded in my eyebrows – one that only took twenty years of hindsight to actually see it. Unlike what I thought about myself at the time, I was pretty damn unhideous. I would even go as far to say that I was pretty cute. Yes it’s a cliche, teens and their self-esteem issues. But I’d truly look in the mirror and see an out-of-place monster. How terribly sad.

On the bright side, if I had that face today it would be riddled with HPV, so I guess it worked out.

The other non-hideous things about seventeen were the rest of the know-nothings that I befriended. The valedictorian. The nice guy. The Goody Two-Shoes. The bad ass. The comedian. The rebel. The weirdo. The rich girl. The super rich girl. (I went to private school.) The artist. The Goth. The drama queen. My secret girlfriend. They were glorious. Each one. Raging with hormones, broken out with acne and hiding torn hymens from Jesus. Together we made up a super diverse version of The Breakfast Club that could have been made for Telemundo after dark.

But that was then. Next week we will be reunited for an episode of Oprah’s Where Are They Now, where the impulse to undo our high school stereotypes will most likely lead to boring each other with talk of investment banking, bibs and breakfast nooks. But as much as my body recoils with the thought of being trapped in a boring conversation, my FOMO is too powerful not to be there. And I’m willing to bet that in the midst of polite conversation, I’ll see a glimmer of the shitheads we once were. And I’m also willing to put money on having to hold someone’s hair back at the end of the night.

It was Catholic school for Christ’s sake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Across from the guy downstairs: Scream 3

“(1)Do you know of any hospitals around here? In Doral? (2)I’ve called all the Hospitals in Hialeah and he’s not in any of them. (3)My son was hit by a car in Hialeah. You know my son? The one with all the tattoos? (4)He was walking home from his uncle’s house. Do you know where the KFC is? He was hit there. (5)His cousin called me to tell me. (6)You know I don’t drive. (7)I took his phone away because he was skipping school and now I can’t call him.”

I thought about many things while the tuba lady played her sad song to my partner, who was fittingly standing on a balcony during the loud serenade. I thought about yelling again. I thought about walking out there. I thought about how I would handle it if Iris would try to convince me to help this woman. But none of that would be necessary. Apparently, Iris couldn’t run back in the house fast enough. I believe her response was, “Oh. Wow. No, there are no hospitals here. Good luck with that.” And by the time she actually said, “Good luck with that,” she was already inside the apartment, locking the sliding glass door behind her.

I was really glad to see her give me the, what-the-hell-just-happened look.

What happened was, quite simply, that she was almost a victim of this woman’s bullshit. It was all a blatant lie. Probably in the hopes to get a ride somewhere. If you don’t want to believe that, well, then the son had his cousin lie to his mother so he could disappear for a few days and impregnate some more underage girls. But, someone was lying because the story was a complete fabrication and here’s why:

1. There are no hospitals in Doral. Baptist Hospital has an urgent care center and so does Miami Children’s. Urgent care centers do not accept ambulances, especially if they are transporting trauma patients. But why should she know where the local hospitals are? She’s just a mom and a caregiver for a special needs child.

2. There are two hospitals in Hialeah with somewhat decent emergency rooms. So, she called all two hospitals in Hialeah, but not the number one trauma hospital internationally known as Jackson Memorial Hospital. I mean, it’s just her son.

3. The next morning I checked the newspaper. I checked online. I checked everywhere. There was no such accident reported in Hialeah. And yes, we know your son. He’s the reason we don’t open our front door after 11:00 at night.

4. By car, it takes about 12 minutes, using the Palmetto Expressway, to get to that KFC. On foot it must take at least two hours.  Can’t his uncle drop him off? Can’t he take the bus?

5. If his cousin was bright enough to call about the catastrophic accident, couldn’t that same cousin find out what hospital he was going to? Also, wouldn’t the cousin also inform his own father, who happens to be the victim’s uncle and your brother of the occurence? Can’t you call your brother? Your son was just at his house.

6. Ding, ding, ding!

7. Well, if he’s unconscious, it doesn’t matter. I can only imagine that if he was conscious he would’ve asked to borrow someone’s phone to call you. If he wanted to. But, I’m thinking he doesn’t want to talk to you – just like we don’t.

The next morning I received a phone call from the neighbor across from me. You know the one that didn’t open the door. He, of course, heard everything and was calling to make sure we knew that the story she told was total crap. I told him not to worry. He told me that he’s had it with those people. That he can’t take the screaming  anymore. So, he’s decided to get out, even if it costs him to foreclose, but he has to move his family out of there.

Those poor people are right on top of the screaming. All day and all night. If I can hear it my apartment, they must hear it in high definition.

All this made me think that the guy downstairs must really regret having his “investment” property across from the Scream family. Ah, see, there is justice.

This concludes the three-part series on the neighbors that live across the guy downstairs. Now, don’t you wish you lived here?

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.