There’s an old lady who lives in my apartment block who I have concerns for. She is somewhere between 67 and 102 years old and she often occupies my thoughts. Not for any perverse reasons, but because in over 10 years I have never seen anybody visit this lady. I have never even seen her speak to anyone. As far as I can tell the only company she keeps are the two bulging Asda bags that she carries around with her at all times. I don’t know if she keeps pet rats in these bags but I suspect not because they are plastic bags and any living thing kept in there would surely suffocate; which conjures up a stranger thought – what if she keeps dead pet rats in those bags? Or what if she is a serial killer and she is regularly disposing of body parts of people who came to visit? What if she is a reclusive millionaire and she keeps rolled up wads of money in these bags? You see this is the thing, the more I see of this woman, the less I know about her and the more outlandish my assumptions about her life become. Sometimes if I see her in the evening it keeps me up at night, but not in a perverse sense of course.
I have tried to speak to this old lady to be neighbourly and make her feel at ease, but her eyes frantically dart around in all directions like Stevie Wonder in an attempt to avoid any kind of eye contact when we pass on the street or on the driveway. When I did speak with her I couldn’t understand what she said. Her voice was little more than an incoherent mumble, a bit like a cross between Beaker off the Muppets and a drunken Ewok. I simply assumed that she is a little neurotic and nervy and my intrusion into her personal carrier bag space made her uncomfortable, but events later on in this post have made me reconsider.
“…when I look beyond the wrinkles, silver hair and charity shop clothing of the old lady in apartment C, I imagine that she was once quite a Looker.”
I have a problematic habit of staring at people. My Partner/Friend/Lover/Contracted Call Girl hates this. Although my staring is just an incidental to my mind working overtime as I try to imagine the lives and scenarios of the people and events around me when I’m a little bored or mentally restless, she only sees me staring at members of the opposite sex and reduces my social curiosity to banal lechery. Whilst banal lechery is sometimes my motivation, for the most part I’m just making things up. For example, when I look beyond the wrinkles, silver hair and charity shop clothing of the old lady in apartment C, I imagine that she was once quite a Looker. I then wonder why she doesn’t have a husband or some children. This leads me to believe that she was either a bitch or a slag or both; that her husband left her or that she was a party girl and has been around the block a number of times, but eventually left it too late to settle down and was banished to the shelf of spinsterhood. Whilst I understand that this might seem a little unfair and that there could be more sad and tragic reasons behind her apparent loneliness, and that people aren’t supposed to think ill thoughts of the elderly, it is only make believe. And let’s not forget that the elderly were once young, and just like all those Nazi war criminals, are just as likely to have been dirty, rotten, nasty, evil wankers as anybody else.
I thought about breaking into apartment C and fitting some webcams and streaming her inner life onto my computer, but I realise this is illegal. I also realise that I might see her naked, which, having seen Julie Goodyear parade around the Celebrity Big Brother house for two weeks, is an altogether more disturbing prospect. Instead I attempted to invite her around for a cup of tea if she was ever feeling in need of some company. This was a mistake.
One evening at around 9pm I heard my doorbell ring. I don’t like unexpected visitors and I’ve made this clear to my two friends. I wasn’t expecting anyone that night and it was too late for the postman or the bailiffs, so I was curious as to who it could be. When I looked through the spyhole of my front door I couldn’t make out what I was seeing through the fish-eyed-lens view. At first glance it looked like Heath Ledger as The Joker, but I knew this couldn’t be true because he would never have survived that fall at the end of The Dark Knight. Then she leaned forward to press the doorbell again, and the distorted image crystallised into meaning – it was the old lady from apartment C. She had put on an evening gown, some makeup and was carrying a bottle of something that looked alcoholic. I was scared. She looked like Betty Davies in ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’, but the scary thing was she looked like Betty Davies in black and white. I stepped back from the door in the way that you do to distance yourself even further from a door when faced with an unwanted visitor through a spyhole, as if doing so makes you even less visible than being behind a solid wooden door would. She rang the doorbell one last time and I simply froze in fear and anxiety. It seemed too off-key to stand on the doorway and apologise to a woman old enough to be my history project that she had read my invitation all wrong, that I already had a Partner/Friend/Lover/Contracted Call Girl and our relationship was going fine. If the neighbours saw us how would it look? For a moment I thought of Fatal Attraction and feared for my pet rabbits, but we ate those at Easter as an offering to Jesus in protest toward the commercialisation of his festival (if you have never tried it, rabbit is quite a tasty dish; a lot better than cat and certainly not as tough to chew on as dog – although not as good as grey squirrel).
After ringing one last time, the old lady from apartment C bowed her head dejectedly, backed away from the door, spat on my car and left. I stood at the door for a moment and pondered what had just happened. I thought about that first time I attempted to speak with her and how she blushed and fidgeted and averted eye contact and I realised it was the same reaction a young girl has in the playground when a boy she likes asks her out. This thought made me feel sick. Had I led her on? Does this woman think that I was making advances? Does she put a glass up to the wall and listen to me having sex and pleasure herself at the thought of it!? Oh my God, what had I done!?
I now avoid the old lady from apartment C. I am now the one who crosses the road when I see her coming. I am the one who averts eye contact when I pass her on the drive. And instead of imaginatively ruminating about what her life was like when she was young, I imagine her stood at the end of the garden staring up at my bedroom window at night whilst caressing her breast and some nights I tremble and cry myself to sleep.