Friday, 12 February 2021

A Full Empty Floor, Space, & Story between Us

It's not a reference to Hitchcock, though downright plot cockian with a hitch, and has nothing to do with getting someone to stick their head in the oven, though it wouldn't rule that out as a possible desired result, and it doesn't mean blowing out a pilot light so that the victim dies of carbon monoxide inhalation, though it would with an ancillary "I can assure you that I don't smell anything" — by which the goal 'd be glee at stories of their desperate uncertainty the last time they were seen alive.
 
Intent is the key. Intentionally dropping a shoe at 1 a.m., for example, and then later in the day, while bringing down the garbage, insisting that you too'd heard it, it's clearly something in the attic, I'm not toying with anybody, and don't call me Shirley. Can I get you anything from the store while I'm there? I wouldn't ask if I weren't going anyway. I know that a simple little thing like having to "mask up" can alter whether or not we feel like it's worth making the trip for just one thing.
 
I've been told I'm a ghost. It came by way my roommate's recognition that a series of sounds belching from the entryway and through her bedroom door could not have been from me. An expected guest with a key had arrived in the middle of the night and there was hardly a move made by this creature that wouldn't have seemed (to me) like anything but demonstrative noise making: DOOR, STEP STEP SHUFFLE STEP, DOOR, SHUFFLE SHUFFLE, KEYS JINGLE, KEYS DROP, OTHER OBJECT SLAM, SHUFFLE SHUFFLE SHUFFLE STEP, SLIDE, SHOE DROP, SHOE DROP (no dramatic tension there)...
 
My dear sister appreciates the opposite of this behavior. So I'm a ghost, apparently, who appreciates in an "I know, right, wtf!" kind of way her rhetorical "Why can't you just put the plate down without slamming it?!" Seriously. Some people are oblivious. Some are aggressive. Some are both. And some just exude passive-aggression with every breath. Their essence is not just inconsiderate but downright hostile. Could it be attributed to troll-like behavior that seeks out angst wherever it trolls?
 
Most of us, I think, go forth unwittingly in life, barely paying attention to details that stub our toes, dammit to fucking hell. Gurdjieff talked of multiple levels of being asleep such that waking up would require a significant portion of a lifetime, even then in a mode of dedicated attendance that cannot be understood with just those two words.
 
The hateful troll just wants to be loved, probably, and is akin to a bullying monster with a wingspan the width of the school hallway gathering everyone in its path on the way to the principal's office where it will show how unafraid it is. The smaller the audience the less necessary the demonstration.
 
But what of the small peeper who wouldn't troll a bug? No, not me, would were that so. Not that I'm not a small peeper. Sure I am, sort of. But I have my breaking point, where it's like that certain someone who snapped, but is justified by those who recognize that it just had to have been brought on by the extremity of the other actor. Absent the attendant jury who know my ghost? Could be a problem.
 
Where I come from this would be the fifth floor. The one beneath my shoes has been unoccupied since the nice young woman who came up to offer me all the wood bricks from her cellar space when she was moving out, with the polite request for advice on how best to empty it out, so that she not have her deposit appropriated by her lettor, and the suggestion that there were enough wood bricks to share with the whole building.
 
In other words, she found herself in need, but in assessing that need realized she had something to offer that others could use. Was she being considerate of others? I guess not directly, but she was friendly. Only had she known that I'd feel guilty for not helping her should one consider her to have been using me. She was pretty. So there's that. But I don't think her beauty should count against her, and anyway her aspect had the sex-neutral strength of an otherwise entirely self-sufficient person who could use a hand. If you imagined her a  manipulative hottie, you're projecting. Or I'm gaslighting you. Or both.
 
I had my doubts that her idea of just leaving her cellar space open for the weekend with a neighborly note to take what you will would be enough to clear it out by her Monday noon key return deadline. So I just as sort-of selfishly took everything I could, which involved schlepping the bundles up the stairs of one basement of spaces and back down into my own space below the other wing. I left an ample, but less ample, amount of bundles in rows outside the doors of both places along with "help yourself" hints all along the way.
 
All of this to say that the flat below me has been unoccupied since. Since I'd already said that, I don't guess it's relevant except for as an examination of the human potential for interaction so complex that you can't know where someone's coming from, especially in real time, where the time to think rules out much that's not reactionary. I'll leave it to you to figure if your own whys and hows are any less mysterious. I don't think mine are, yet still would like to think so whenever it's comforting.
 
I am going to withhold from you even the slightest evaluation of the physical appearance of the next woman to have ascended to my story unannounced, for this time I'd like to avoid planting the insidious seed of prejudice. Sorry about before. I didn't mean it.
 
So ascend the stairs this other buzzer of my door did, and her tale was just as, if not more, involved, this time involving, ultimately, a concern about the sound that descends from up here, to down to where she would again return as soon as she'd finished with the purpose of her visit. Just to get it out of the way, she would say, it was through some investigation of her own that she'd determined the story above hers, which was the story below mine, to have been devoid of moveable beast for an adequate enough timespan to rule out her concern's being the result of someone in the flat above hers.
 
A number of things might occur to you at this point, few of which, I doubt, have not already occurred to me, even if not in real time at the time of the event of this telling. I can't tell you now how many of these occurrences of mind occurred then versus subsequently. Nor can I tell you how much of their detail was detailed in the explanation of my neighbor's stopping up to recount what prompted them. I can assure you that the detail of the anecdotally decisive uninhabited apartment did bridge the cognitive gap separating us as we stood on opposite sides of the threshold of my doorway.
 
Though short of the explicit suggestion, it occurred to me that an enclosed space might resonate greater beyond itself should it happen to contain fewer things likely to absorb the resonance. This might include sound that begins from without the space. Due to its vacancy, this space might facilitate the transmission of sound more effectively from its one outer side to its other. For the purposes of this discussion, however, the relevance remains that the buzzer of the door had effectively ruled out that which might have originated within that space.
 
This brings to mind the converse in how I'd arrive personally predetermined to a doctor's appointment, not so much to rule out his or her having to rule out that from which I was sure I did not suffer, but to cut straight to the chase with details detailed to lead him or her to my predetermined diagnosis. It's not likely that doctors are the only ones who habitually resist being led to conclusions, and so ignore whatever stated symptoms are inconvenient to that resistance.
 
Conversely, too, this woman, who might be the most beautiful creature you've ever seen or the most hideous beast yet known to mammals, had a preconceived notion ready to be told to whomever answered the door that day. That it happened to be me, I was the one to be told it. Although it was not the preconceived notion that sounded like moving furniture, that'd be a fun detail. No, the notion she had preconceived was that the sound she'd been hearing sounded like furniture being dragged about. It's frequency became the concern. You can imagine.
 
At least you can imagine the sound of various textures of friction from the surface opposite your ceiling. Whether or not you can imagine these resonant textures vibrating through empty space to make it through an additional barrier is down to your personal experience or notionally determined, informed or not. I can, or could imagine, as the details have hinted. On the other hand, the less resonant the sound, the less resonant the notion it'd complete trip. Obviously.
 
An additional consideration, less dependent upon the ironic dearth of furniture, would be how much the vibrations travel up and down the walls. For the next detail of this storied account, I ask you to consider the woman next door.
 
Unlike in the way I'd once taken care not to include the slightest symptom that might steer the doctor to any diagnosis but my own, the buzzer of the door at some point mentioned, let slip, maybe, this person in a wheelchair who lived in the building right next to ours. Here's where my memory, like so much sound to keep distinct, gets fuzzy. I do know the buzzer of the door has paid as many visits as that which torments her is continuous.
 
It could be that on a visit subsequent to the first, my flatmate, the architect, had told her about the nature of the noises we receive in this old place, how they rise from the depths of the adjacent building's units that are in half alignment with our own, or even more directly, given their floors are nearer our ear level. Or it could be that that had taken place prior to my first encounter recounted above. Either way, at some point she let the existence of wheelchair lady slip, not that this preoccupation wouldn't be a projection of my own. It could be that the buzzer of the door is as blatant in her honesty as tenacious in her concern.
 
She ascended one morning, the buzzer of the door, and as soon as I opened it I couldn't do but notice what she had in her hand, which should have precluded the next longer-winded than necessary explanation, but I digress by precisely this long as well. In her hand she held a flat transparent plastic package containing sticky-sided pads, of a whole range of shapes and sizes, which one uses to place on the bases of the legs of stools and chairs and tables, or any other furniture one might be inclined to drag about, or, as the case may be, ever so slightly but no less forcibly scoot around in.
 
Or scooch, as the case may be, which case it was just then, an inopportune or auspicious one, depending on the perspective. Scooch would be more operative, onomatopoeically squeaking. For no sooner than the corresponding words had crossed her lips, which might be as perfectly proportioned as those of your fetish or horribly chapped and unappealing, assuming that's just not your thing, a tenor squeak of just such a scooch resonated through the door of the room at the end of the hall behind me, at which the buzzer of the door interrupted her own remarks to interject quite matter of factly, "Exactly."
 
I just as casually accepted her offer, with the promise to affix one of each of the package's contents to the bottom of any moveable feet in the flat, and with the request that she buzz by to let me know how it had worked. Once safely returned behind my closed door, I got to work, which, as it turns out didn't involve more than four chairs, only two of which had made any sound either way. The pads in place seemed to serve their function. Conjunction junction, any questions?

For many years more than my awareness of the buzzer of the door, I have heard sounds, often in the night, much smaller sounding or lighter than furniture. I'd always thought it was coming from the only story above mine, which is the unrented attic. If I had had to describe the sound with the blatancy of honesty, that is, minus wanting to have you believe it came from, or didn't come from, one particular source, I'd've said it's like a stick being scraped along the floor. Drama for the sake of storytelling, it's a rat sliding from one end of the attic to the other. As an amusing farce, it's diverse divisions of diminutive hairy critters aggregated in the garret and kegel-ing with a Calvin ball. Melancholic melodrama, it's the impact of a syringe that rolls to the wall upon release.
 
Of course it's none of these things. Even if the occasional junkie breaches the inadequately secured orifice to the space above my head, I have it on educated authority that the sound I am hearing is not coming from inside the house. The huge however here is that I have my authority from the source of that untimely scooched squeak, which would indeed place it closer to home. Then again, that was through only one door, excluding the wide open one we were standing in. Nevertheless, it was very firmly against the floor, that scooched squeak, if opposite the ceiling of a room without a tenant. What to think? 
 
After a week or more of silence from down the stairwell, I figured the buzzer of the door might buzz no more. Then I encountered the buzzer of the door in the courtyard one morning and asked about the status of her concern, whether or not there still was one. Well, no. I mean, yes. I mean, she said no, or yes, that she still heard the sound of furniture being dragged about. We retouched the idea related to the woman next door. The woman one building over. It was decided.
 
The most relevant and recurring detail makes me think of what'd be a massively geeky or super cool way to drive a car, respectively, with hands at 11 and 1, or at 5 and 7. 'Twas forever between those two sets of hours in the morning, or so it was always told; the furniture in question would suddenly meet the apparent need to be set in motion.
 
Next, I give you a gap where a couple of missing pieces belong, because first I want I tell you of the most recent visit. It started with a buzz at the door. As is my wont, I peeped before opening. Did I ever tell you how much bigger our peepholes are? And with covers that slide away to the side because the lens is simple glass. There's no way in hell, unfortunately, you can sneak a peak without answering. Unless you wanna. Unless you insist.
 
The buzzer of the door and I have got to quit meeting like this. This time she wasted no words and wanted to speak to the occupant of the room behind the closed door at the end of the hall behind me. The occupant happened to be working from home. This, by the strong suggestion of a local government not quite strong enough to set this in law, though, strictly speaking, this status is anyone's guess. Given my own status over the last year, I find myself in similar circumstances. The frequency of not wanting to answer the door resonates with a frequency increased — of knowing just how often I wouldn't wanna.
 
The buzzer reiterated her request, an insistence contextualized in the matter of her concern. If I sighed, it was simultaneous to both the moment I snapped, and when words came from my mouth to the effect that the goddamn noise was not coming from us. I had achieved what I never quite could as an actor. I must have been listening to my scene partner really well this time. Very in the moment. The way you know you've delivered a line with max efficacy is from the look on the face of the person who subsequently misses their cue. No matter. This snapper at the door had more to say. That we'd been through this, basically. We know where the sound is coming from.

One missing piece that'd fall into the gap above is I was never quite convinced myself. Then the ensuing discussion, while predominantly a one-sided rant, induced the recurring theme of 11 p.m. 'til 1 in the morning, and 5 until 7 a.m. At least one of these ranges precludes absolutely the single source location of the buzzer's concern involving the space with the door at which she was buzzing. Only the ghost is awake at 5 a.m. This ghost doesn't walk through the room but floats across the floor. No surface if it could only sense would feel a plate I place upon it. This ghost will not be needled into thinking he's the source of noise that'd annoy him much more than the buzzer of the door. No fucking way it's coming from up here. Nor from us. Period.
 
I said this with the confidence that did not give a fuck whether or not the source at 1 in the morning was from here. I do know that I'm not hearing any of that through the bedroom wall of my roomy, the architect. Of course, the the bedroom wall is not the floor.

What I have since come to recognize over the years is that those overnight noises emanate from the outer wall, adjacent to the woman next door, I guess, up high, sometimes low. It's hard to tell. Yet it is, as best as I can assess, not unlike what the buzzer describes. Yet, still, it does not strike me as unusually loud. It's not from here. Maybe by the buzzer back home. All this was related in real time to the buzzer at the door, along with well-wishes in trying to regulate a normal level of living from a neighbor not in your building.
 
Fortunately the threshold of my volume and agitation peaked only for the briefest period. Hence I say snapped. The assertiveness was maintained, I say, now, in the passive voice, as someone who must have something else going on upstairs.
 
Wait a minute. Just who's gaslighting who, here? Hoohah!