In an apartment, pulling your shades is not enough

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apartment, stairs and door with sunshine

We are on the second floor of a three-story walkup, so we have people living above, below and on two sides of us. Apartment living is not a new thing to us, and given the choice between owning a house with all its responsibilities and expenses and paying rent for someone else to handle those things, we opt for the rental.

There are some things you learn quickly about living so close to other people. First, it is important that you always greet your neighbors when you encounter them in the common areas. You never know when you may need each other, and it is just uncomfortable to live in the same building with someone with whom you have not been friendly. Second, respect is key. This is basic in any living arrangement, but in an apartment complex, cleaning up your mess and obeying the policies keeps life pleasant. Finally, keep it quiet.

I know what you did last night

We hope the couple below us appreciates our quiet. Aside from our dog, who yaps when someone knocks on the door, and our grandkids when they visit, our apartment is very peaceful. We don’t watch a lot of TV or play loud music, and, if I’m being honest, we hardly ever run the vacuum. We read, we write, we never shout or run down the hall. The couple above us, however, is obviously in their own happy world.

They are young, and I believe the man lives alone. The room right above my office, where I work most of the day, seems to be his bedroom. Many days I don’t hear a sound from above until well after noon when his bed springs squeak, his feet hit the floor, and he begins his day. Often, this seems to involve sitting in the living room playing a deep droning video game.

But on Friday, his girlfriend arrives. They are a sweet couple, always smiling and friendly when I pass them on the stairs. She has an infectious giggle, and he makes her laugh. From my desk, I hear them laughing together. His voice will say something low, and she will explode in liquid giggles. When the laughter stops, however, I know I should take a break from my work and maybe go for a walk with the dog to give the neighbors some privacy.

It could be worse

I complained about this weekly romantic ritual to my daughter, Joyce, when she visited one afternoon. She hinted that I was jealous of the young passion overhead, but then she reminded me of the situation we could have instead.

We lived in a similarly designed apartment some years ago, and the family in the unit next to ours was anything but loving. Instead of giggles and lovemaking on Fridays, the husband began drinking. By Sunday afternoon, he was belligerent and antagonistic. One weekend, we had to call the police because we could hear the children crying while the parents screamed at each other, threw things, and threatened each other with knives. So Joyce is right. I will take the lovers above any day over that.

Microcosm of the world

We have lived here less than a year, but I am making an effort to get to know everyone in the building. There is Sylvia on the first floor. In her eighties, she is battling cancer again, so I share baked goods with her. A little Guatemalan woman lives in the building, and my dog reminds her of her own pet whom she left in her country. I don’t understand a word she says, but her meaning is clear. One apartment is leased to Mormon missionaries, young men in white shirts and black ties who never fail to greet me and offer a kind word.

These are just a few of the people who share the brick and mortar with us. An apartment building is a microcosm of the world. With our different lives, we share a common space. We all suffer in our own ways, and we all celebrate our daily successes. And sometimes, if we are very lucky, we fill our space with a passionate love that is too good to keep quiet.

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