In which I see my former downstairs neighbour, and remember things I’d forgotten

This past Saturday, Oats and I went to the wholesale grocery in the industrial district near our house. We were walking homeward when we had to pull our bike trailer of groceries out of the way, to let pass a man and a woman with a baby in a stroller. As they went past, I made eye contact with the man, and he gave a quick shy smile before turning away and continuing down the road.

I stayed standing there until they were far ahead, then turned to Oats. “Wow,” I said. “I know that man.”

It was… Richard? No… Dammit, I still can’t remember his name, not even though I’ve been thinking about it ever since this happened three days ago.

He was my former downstairs neighbour, from the building I used to live in two years ago.  The one I blogged about here and here, because he had an abusive girlfriend who was struggling with addiction, very publicly and loudly and violently. I called the cops a few times, including one night when she stabbed him.   He had a history of similar things himself, I know, because he told me about it:  The mandatory anger-management program, the counseling, the lure of drugs and booze, how much trouble he’d be in if he ever hit her back, how much it sucked to live in a building as vermin-infested and run-down as ours.  We chatted a lot, with a weird sort of neighbourliness in which he thanked me for caring.

It was nice to hear that, if only because I was always unsure about calling the cops.   I was worried about them busting other residents for pot, or not believing that this guy was the victim of assault and instead assuming he’d been the instigator.  Even with his gratitude for my actions, it was still a stress because all I could wonder was where it was heading.   Was this going to go on and on, with her screaming outside our building and attacking him, and me bringing in the state?  It wasn’t a role I wanted, and I was even worried I might be enabling the situation.

So strange to be thinking of all this again, when I’d pretty much forgotten about it.

I’d forgotten that I didn’t just move to my current home because I wanted a prettier apartment, and to share a house with Sum and Captain Pestou.  I’d forgotten how tiring it was to live in a place that wasn’t just tiny but also full of mice and mold, with walls so thin that I could hear everything happening throughout the building.  I dreamed of making it into a co-op, something I was working on at the same time as the crazy violence was happening downstairs.  What was I thinking?!!!

When I told them I was moving from that old apartment to my current one, some people laughed and said I was just going from one of the city’s worst neighbourhoods to the other one.  Which was, and is, laughable, because the street where I live now is more upper class than anywhere I’ve lived before.  It’s true that I’m now in a municipality that has less money than the rest in our city, but more so than anything, it’s a question of stereotypes and spatiality:  People think it’s rough because it has a military base, dockyards, and two reserves, but really they are all crammed into such a small area that it’s simply more noticeably working class than anywhere else in the region.

Anyway.  Yeah.  There he was, my former downstairs neighbour, from when we lived somewhere really crappy.  And the woman walking with him, pushing the baby in the stroller?  I’m pretty certain it was the same girlfriend from back then.  I hope it has worked out.  I hope they aren’t addicted.  I hope they live somewhere nice, and that the baby is safe, and that they are happy.


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