Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Rupert Affair


Living in an apartment block can be an oddly isolating business. Despite having neighbours above, below and to either side of us, we rarely see them. It’s odd to think that your bedroom must be within 30 feet of at least 4 other bedrooms full of other people sleeping - and doing other stuff - but you could go days or weeks without seeing those people. And if you live in a modern - by which I mean ‘tissue-thin walled’- apartment, you might hear your neighbours but you won’t often see them. The dull distorted bass of a TV next door, the patter of a toddler’s feet above, the slam of the front door a few floors below, might well be the extent of their impact on your life.

Good, you might say. The last thing you want is to be aware of your neighbours’ comings and goings. Their late-night rows during summer when the windows are open, their horrible boiled cabbage cooking seeping up through the extractor fans, their nasty chain-smoking out on the balcony just below your busy lizzies. This is true; those are all unpleasant aspects of living cheek by jowl, but it can be just as weird when you just don’t see your neighbours at all.

You know they’re there. Cars appear and disappear outside. Apartment doors open and close. Washing machines vibrate and drains gurgle. But you never meet, you rarely even see your fellow rezzies. Oh, maybe a fleeting nod of acknowledged existence as you pass in the car park, but that’s practically it. Without front gardens and drives, there’s no common area; no reason to linger or potter. We all trot smartly from our cars to the front door, up the stairs and into our hermetically-sealed broadbanned habivirons every evening, only to reverse the process in the morning on our way back out into the world.

The only folks with a reason to bump into other people are the dog-walkers. A couple of times I've tried to join in on one of their impromptu gatherings in the car park, idly passing the time as their respective pooches get down to some serious mutual bum-sniffing. But it always feels weird if you haven’t got a dog yourself, like being the only single person at a dinner party or some kind of pervy dog-hag. I have honestly considered walking around the estate with a realistic toy dog on a lead just to give me the excuse to hang out with all the cool dog people.

* * *

But all that changed about a year ago, when this new guy moved in upstairs, and we just started sort of seeing each other.

At first Herself and I didn't know his name. We just called him 24, after the number of his apartment. He moved in with some other folks, but he doesn't seem to be that close to them, spending a fair bit of time out in the hallways and stairwells, just hanging around. But not in a threatening way. He just has that kind of look, you know? Like he just enjoys his own space. After a while we learnt that his name’s Rupert.

He’s often coming in as we’re going out, or vice versa, so it was just natural that we've got to know each other. To start with we wouldn't really talk as such, just say hello as we went about our days. But that was enough, at first. Just that simple contact with someone else.

Of course it didn't stop there. It couldn't. He’s come into our place a couple of times now, curious I guess to see how it compares to his own apartment on the floor above. Would you believe the first thing he did was run into the bedroom for a look round? Amazing. He seems to have no concept of privacy, but for some reason he gets away with it. He has that kind of a face, I suppose.

What’s grown over this last year is an odd, episodic sort of relationship – sometimes just him and me, sometimes him and Herself, sometimes all three of us. Whatever; it all feels fine, comfortable with each other. Just a few minutes of brief contact out in the corridor, rarely speaking. A few minutes of physical contact, perhaps a few nibbles or some simple stroking and nuzzling. That’s enough for all of us, and then we get on with our respective lives. You might say that sounds cold, mechanical, almost business-like, but it’s really not. Just uncomplicated. Wonderfully uncomplicated.

And so this strange affair with Rupert carries on to this day. The only dark shadow in our little world is his family upstairs. They don’t know about us, about what we have together. I don’t think they’d like it if they knew. It’s been close a couple of times, the sound of their apartment door suddenly opening above, giving us just seconds to break off and scamper back inside our own flat before they come down and see us in the hallway with those tasty fish-flavoured Dreamies ™ in our guilty, guilty hands. Rupert probably wouldn't care though. He’d probably just give us all a look and start licking his back leg, like he always does. The little scamp.

Don't judge our love


Jack said...

I laughed heartily at this. But then I reflected on how well you touch upon the desperate and terrible nature of modern life and now only tears remain.

The Chocolate Ocelot said...

Your tears are all the reward I need.