Julia had always hated the apartment; alright, always might be a bit of an hyperbole. She did like it well enough when she visited it. In all honesty, she loved it. It was perfect for her; the neighbourhood, the layout, the view and the price. She wouldn’t even need a roommate for the 2 bedroom apartment. Everything was great. She should have known there was a trick: oh it wasn’t the bedbugs or a train passing by every ten minutes. She’d known those too: that’s what happened to girls who dropped out of college to be artists. They usually didn’t get gigs and found dead end jobs with crappy places to live.
No everything was nice until the first night she spent in her new flat. She wasn’t what you call a blushing flower, as one of her favourite characters would say, but even she found what she heard particularly embarrassing. Obviously her neighbours at apartment 515 were into particularly kinky stuff and – as appeared increasingly blatant – threesomes. In fact, she discovered within a few days that the people were a well established menage a trois. And wouldn’t mind if she were interested to join in. The comment made her blush to her already red roots.
Then there were the old people of apartment 519: so deaf they yelled at each other all day long. Within a week she knew that they’d been married 45 years going on 100. Mr. Jonah Schwartz was leaving his socks everywhere and Mrs. Margaret Schwartz couldn’t cook to save her life. But she could knit a scarf and a sweater like no one else. They were endearing for all their screaming. But that didn’t make her sleeping easy. She needed to sleep late and there was no way she could do that with these two yelling at the top of their lungs by 7am a mere hour after she came to bed.
Finally the family above her head: she could go on forever about the stupid brats stomping their feet as if they were alone in the world. How many times had she wondered whether the ceiling would fall on her head? She’d gone up once to ask if they could be more considering. The mother looked at her as if she were some piece of garbage. Julia suspected she’d joined her kids to make even more noise that day.
After that, she never complained to any neighbours. In fact, she avoided them all if she could, never speaking to them. Better be lonely than hated by the entire building. Instead she lost her job because she was falling asleep at work. She might have to ask for a roommate in the end… She hated the place but she would never find another apartment so cheap. Still she hated the place. Somehow she loathed it even more now she might have to leave it. What did she care about Sonia’s capacity to orgasm for half an hour at a time or that she gave the best head? Or that she was bisexual. She hated little Ben’s toothing and Leslie breaking her arms playing soccer. She didn’t give a damn about Mr. Gordon’s affair with his kids’ baby sitter even though she was 15 years younger than him. She hated them all. At least they had jobs, lives. Or they had had one, like the Schwartz. And hearing all about it only made her even more aware that she was wasting hers.
In the end, it was pure luck that she came home early after a failed interview for an admin job and found Mrs. Schwartz in front of her apartment. She’d forgotten the keys and her husband didn’t hear the doorbell. Julia called the super and picked the spare keys. The apartment was a mess: not dirty per se but messy. And judging by the snoring coming from the bedroom, Mrs. Schwartz would have waited a long time to enter her flat.
“Don’t worry about the lack of order dear. We haven’t found anyone who was good enough to take care of the house. We’re a little… Well you would say old. It’s tough.”
“Are you looking for someone?” Julia said before she could think.
Mrs. Schwartz looked up at her.
“You looking for a job young lady?”
“If you’re offering one. Of course.”
She seemed to consider.
“10$ an hour cash. Can you cook?”
“We’ll try it. If it satisfies my Jonah, we’ll give you 15$ an hour, 4 hours a day. It’s not much. But it’ll give you time to practice your music. Do more with it.”
Oh! How? She blushed. Of course. How could she think that her daily routine was anymore private than theirs?
“Thank you so much, Mrs. Schwartz. Tell me. What’s Mr. Schwartz’s favourite dish?”
“He loves curry chicken. I know it’s weird.”
“No, no that’s fine.”
“Can you start tomorrow? Jonah will sleep through the night.”
Well maybe she didn’t hate the place after all. And maybe eavesdropping – albeit unwillingly – on people’s conversations didn’t give that much insight on who they were as individuals.