There I am, standing at the elevator, just minding my business when my next door neighbor comes up to me. I've only ever met him once or twice before; he's a short little black guy, maybe in his mid to late fifties, one of those people who passes rapidly through the salt-and-pepper phase straight to pure white. Usually he studiously avoids eye contact, but this time he marched right into my personal space and started talking.
"You know the walls are pretty thin in this building," was how he started his story... Seems his wife, a nice lady I've only ever glimpsed in passing, never leaves the apartment anymore. He does all of the shopping, anything that requires going out. She hasn't been to so much as a doctor's appointment in two years. Agoraphobic I guess is the professional term. But she loves her TV shows... Or she did until cable got so expensive that they can only afford basic now. This man, my neighbor, was really worried about his wife when the cable went off: she got very depressed, withdrawn... Sometimes wouldn't even get out of bed. Until recently, that is.
After her last bout of five or six straight days in bed he came home one afternoon from work and found her dressed, coiffed and perky. She couldn't stop talking about a fight she'd heard the neighbors having - which of course would be us - and some of the juicy details she'd overheard. Over the next few days she followed the progress of our rapprochement with careful, water glass to the wall attention. She'd been doing better ever since - and all because she'd found something to occupy her. Something to absorb her attention, something that interested and titillated and even scandalized her at times. A story she could follow almost every day with characters she felt she knew.
In short, my love life is my next door neighbor's new soap opera addiction.
Her husband told me this so earnestly that I was a little afraid he was going to ask if she could join in, but that's not the case. (*THANK JEBUS*) No - she'd heard us talking about moving when our lease is up and was just as indignant as any soap fan reading a cancellation notice for their favorite video histrionics. Not knowing what else to do, he approached me. I'm still a little stunned; in his shoes, I'd never have told the principal players, not EVER. I'd have just hoped for the best. I suppose, though, that watching your wife of over twenty years drift slowly into a depression from which you were afraid she might not emerge would be enough to make you want a little control over the situation. Still, would you walk up to a complete stranger and tell them that listening to their sex life through the bedroom wall had cured your spouse's agoraphobia? I'm not sure I'd have the balls. It was sort of nice to be complimented even in such a backhanded way though.
"You queers done saved my wife's mind, an' I hope you'll never move" is a phrase I think I'll treasure for a long time.
Now I definitely think we're gonna move, FYI.
Title lyric from "People Are Strange" as covered by Echo & The Bunnymen.