8 Million Stories: How Deborah Fenker knows the boy next door

Written by Deborah Fenker on . Posted in On Topic OTDT, Opinion and Column, Opinion Our Town, Opinion West Side Spirit, Our Town, Our Town Downtown, West Side Spirit.


Remaining friendly with my ex-boyfriends has always been my M.O. Recently, however, I realized that this may have had more than a little to do with the fact that the post-breakup has historically found me and my ex on separate continents—or at least opposite coasts. More recently, I thought the distance from Chelsea to Brooklyn would adequately replicate that continental buffer.

Until he moved next door. Not in the next building or across the street, kind of kitty-corner—I mean wall-sharing, within earshot, might-as-well-be-living-together, A3-to-A4 next door. In sleep, our bodies lie but 20 or so feet from one another.

It’s weird, at best. In our building, these two ground-floor apartments have the New York City luxury of a humble courtyard behind them. With this most recent occupant, however, my previously prized haven of solace has been rendered a potentially hellish, too-close-for-comfort point of collision, divided only by a flimsy cedar fence and a thick dollop of resentment.

My previous neighbors were the brilliant couple that introduced us. Approximately a year ago, when their twosome became nine months away from being a trio, they knew they would have to break their lease. Who better to fill the void than their old friend, her college buddy, his drinking buddy—my ex-boyfriend?

We had actually reached a comfortable tolerance after a raspy breakup, but when my soon-to-be-ex-neighbor broke the news to me over dinner one night, I don’t think I processed the depth of the situation. Despite a few hopeful lapses regarding a shoddy credit record and several delayed move-in dates, the lease was signed Nov. 15.

Since then, I’ve seen him maybe three times, with just about as many words exchanged on each occasion. His nine-to-five and my inconsistent freelance schedule provide for thankfully few encounters.

The frustration on my end lies simply in my insatiable curiosity; I honestly couldn’t care less what he feels about me at this point, though this might answer a few lingering uncertainties, but I do desperately want to know how he regards me, whatever it is. Disdain, disinterest, unrequited passion, animosity, vengeance (should I be wary?), fond nostalgia? I don’t know if I care which of these it might be (though my druthers would be the latter), I would just love to know whatever the hell he is thinking.

Beyond that, my only point of contention thus far is that he plays his raucous thrash music loud enough that I can feel the bass in my chest. Nearing 10-ish on a weekday winter night, having endured a solid two hours of his iPod shuffle, I guess I’d had it. I thumped five times, hard, on our shoddy sheetrock dividing wall.

It was only then that I bothered to recognize to tune that was invading my soundspace. I believe the band is Bread. I believe the title of the track is “Everything I Own.” Yup, that’s right: “Just to have you back again.” Do understand, though—it was coming from his Bose, not mine.

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