See another situation update below.
Actually, I have no idea what time it might be in Amsterdam, but when it’s 5am in Brisbane, this is how I know: the pounding of the bass from the music being played in the flat below sends a constant vibration through the wooden structure in which I live; the voice of the tenant from the flat below is clearly audible as he shouts into his telephone at someone he doesn’t care about; fury, which has built in the last half hour since I was woken from sleep, is consuming my person to the extent that I yell out the kitchen window, ‘Keep it down; it’s 4.30 in the f******* morning!’—to absolutely no effect.
When it’s 11am in Brisbane, this is how I know: as I walk past my offending neighbour’s open door on the way to the bin he slams it shut, a habit of his that drives one of my other neighbour’s crazy; I talk to yet another neighbour, who is also being driven insane by the offending neighbour’s habits; I learn that the offending neighbour constantly asks the other smokers for cigarettes; that he sits out the front of the flats on weekdays to beg for more from passers-by; I learn that the offending neighbour roams around the flats in the wee hours of the morning, jumping up on the brick fences and practising pseudo-martial arts moves against the walls; that he practises those same moves in the interior of his flat, resulting in all sorts of bangs and breakages; I tell how the offending neighbour overfills the communal washing machine and leaves his wet and dirty washing in the laundry over night, raising the possibility of damaging the machine while preventing me and others from doing our washing; I learn that his mother comes over and cleans for him; with my eyes hanging out of my head, I say I’ve called the real estate agent to make a noise complaint and I ask whether my neighbour lodged a complaint last week when the offending neighbour played discordant violin music at full volume; I learn that it isn’t only me who has changed the way they live in order to avoid encountering the offending neighbour—while I invent reasons to go out, another neighbour hides in his flat.
When it’s 2pm in Brisbane, this is how I know: I’ve just sneaked back into the flats after wandering up the street to buy the paper and browse the shelves of the organic food store; the offending neighbour slams his door again, then again; I swear to my empty flat until my head begins to hurt; I’m tired and angry; I resolve that if the property manager hasn’t returned my call by 2pm Monday, I will call again and demand action.
Monday 16 Jan. 06, 9.30am
Last night while I was finishing re-reading Timbuktu, I felt the now familiar vibration of the bass rising from the offending neighbour’s flat. The clock showed 10.38pm. Soon I heard voices raised not in argument or admonishment but by means of a microphone in a poor imitation of every rap and hip hop track you’ve ever heard. I was curious, because there seemed to be more than one voice, so I donned a bra, a skirt and some thongs and exited my flat via the door that leads from my shower, because it takes me directly into the back yard away from the sight of the offending neighbour should he be near the entrance to his flat below my kitchen window. I was going to see one of my neighbours that hadn’t been around earlier in the day, to ask her to lodge an official complaint with the real estate’s property manager, using the evidence of this latest imposition, to add weight to my complaint and those of the other tenants. She wasn’t home, or at least her lights weren’t on—I know that one of my other neighbours whose lights were also not on was definitely home. He’s the one who has taken to hiding in his flat. I wasn’t angry this time, instead I felt a curious kind of calm as this latest behaviour added weight to the substance of the charges against him. On the other side of the building, opposite to my flat, I saw that the offending neighbour’s other door was open, so I walked back around to my flat and out of the gate that leads to the driveway. In darkness, I made my way quietly down the driveway until I was able to see through the window of the offending neighbour’s flat. There, through the backlit lines of the vertical blinds, I saw the silhouettes of two people, one standing, dipping from side to side in a dance that matched the contorted rhythm of the improvised lyrics, while the other sat, adjusting dials on what I can only assume was some kind of recording equipment. The dissonant trip lasted until around 1.30am.
Now I can feel the vibrations through the floor again, and I have just spoken to the property manager. She says I have to write a letter and get the other tenants to sign it so she has verifiable grounds to evict him. She already has permission from the owners to take this action. She told me that the offending tenant claimed he has lived in the flats for five years, and she seemed to think the record of his leases supported that. I said he had barely lived there five months. I can’t bear to think that he has forged any documentation that would secure his tenancy further. The property manager also let slip that the offending tenant had been in her office screaming at her to the extent that she’d had to call security. Quite frankly, the offending tenant needs to be in supervised care, and it is completely unethical of his mother to secure rental agreements on his behalf, when he poses a danger to others around him who are not equipped to manage whatever his illness may be.
Tuesday 17 Jan. 2006, 3.00pm
I'm feeling a bit sheepish about that last sentence. I know it's not that straight forward. I'm hanging my head in shame.