My terrible, very bad neighbors across the hall–you know, the ones of the extremely audible, all-hours bongo-playing and door-slamming and key-losing? The ones who routinely had such terrible, very bad, and extremely audible sex, complete with terrible, very bad, and extremely audible fake orgasms, that I longed to bludgeon them with a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves? Well, I am extremely pleased to report that those neighbors have left the building. First they broke up—very audibly, of course–and then he moved out, and then she finally moved out as well. As of now, their apartment remains empty, and my building is so still, so peaceful, so luxuriantly quiet that it’s as if I’m living in a mountain spa right in the middle of Williamsburg. I need a new word for the particular schadenfreude one feels upon outlasting terrible neighbors. Schadenfreudenizen? Schadunhausfraught? Oh, the future’s so bright my apartment’s gotta wear shadunshades.
It was another day of dodging zombies who weren’t looking at anything but their smartphones. NYC contains so many sorts of people—so many people, period–that it requires a strict adherence to the social contract in order to remain livable. We don’t need to be nice here; we need to be reasonable. Stay to the right side of a busy sidewalk. Don’t cut in line. Look where you are going. Keep your private conversations private. Let people exit a subway car before you enter it. Throw your trash in a trash can. The zombies (I’d call them smartphonies but they’re just too dumb) do not heed these seemingly intuitive rules of conduct, which makes it hard not to treat them like zombies. And that’s too bad because this finely feathered city is always so much more pleasurable when we marvel over each other’s humanity. I try, this Mz. Manners always tries, but today was already trying: swampy, scratchy, red-tape-y, with a thin wire of metallic dread threading through everything. (I am still generally overcome.) By tonight’s subway ride, I felt an unspeakable tenderness for few who were sitting quietly with paper books or, better yet, their own thoughts. I won’t say what I felt for the slack-jawed manchild, legs spread so wide that he took up two seats by himself, who was playing a videogame on his Samsung Galaxy while a frail-looking older woman teetered in his direct field of vision. I really won’t say how I shamed him into giving up his seat for her. But I will say that casual unkindness hurts my heart so much.
And so, I suppose, my Summer of Reckoning continues. Woke with the sun and the birds and my cat with the great gimlet eyes. Meditated, plaited my hair, and hightailed it to the Grand Army Greenmarket, where my friend and I oohed and aaahed over big bushy fennel and chard and sweet bumpkin lettuces before buying as many as could fit in our earnest canvas bags. Over avocado toast and iced almond espressos we counted our blessings and sins even if he’d eschew such Christian-derived language, never mind the neotheist intent. I got back to my car just in time: I’d read those pesky Brownstone Brooklyn parking signs incorrectly—it’d take a law degree to master their myriad mastipulations—and the tow truck was already digging its talons into my Sadie’s fender when I arrived. (So No-Park Slope to tow when it wasn’t even a tow zone; can their officials find nothing else to do?) I cajoled, I cried, I bribed, I prevailed. And thus Sadie and I ducked back home together, howling along to Aretha as the city came to its inevitable boil.