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Another Reason I, Too Don't Keep a Gun in the House

Amy Clark


             The neighbors are at it again. I say this because I am not sure exactly what they are doing, and have already made the mistake this morning of thinking it was the upstairs neighbors when really it was the downstairs neighbors. That’s not really fair either. I know what they are doing: they are playing their music at top volume so that the bass is actually shaking the floor of my bedroom and I can hear cheering from the recorded crowd screaming in mass-produced ecstasy between each track. I just can’t fathom why they would do this. Actually, they do this most nights and all day on the weekends. I called the landlord to complain this morning about the people upstairs playing their music at that volume, and I pointed out that I have already spoken to them about this six times in the last two weeks, which is true. I left a message on his machine. But then I had to call back and leave another message and say sorry, it is the people downstairs this time that are causing the problem. After that, and to try to be fair, I went downstairs and knocked on that neighbor’s door, because after all, I had spoken to the people upstairs six times before I called the landlord on them and I had only ever spoken to the people downstairs twice in regard to anything at all. When she answered the door she was wrapped in a towel, and it appeared to me that what she had in fact been doing was taking a shower with the music in her living room, which is directly below my bedroom, all the way up so she could hear it across the hall and over the sound of rushing water. She told me that we, meaning myself and my two roommates, make too much noise on the staircase before seven in the morning. And I told her, truthfully but in a heated manner, that no one in my apartment ever leaves the house before seven in the morning and if she had a problem it was with the people upstairs who, it is true, make a lot of noise on the staircase. I think she understood me. By the time I got back to my second-floor apartment, the people upstairs had turned on their music and the woman downstairs had turned hers back up. Downstairs it is keyboards, upstairs crooners. Taken together it is some kind of demonic cross between a seizure victim with a xylophone and a timpani factory. The other thing the people upstairs are doing now is shouting. I don’t know what about. This is because they are shouting in Portuguese. Which makes me wonder if it would bother me less if they were shouting in English. I would like to think not, because of the greater implications. On the other hand, if I heard them shouting, very clearly, “it is on fire!” or “oh, the pain!” or “it is stuck in my asshole!” or “you don’t love me anymore!” I would understand and, I think, be understanding. But what about the music? Would I have less of a problem if it were music that was familiar to me? What if it were fifties rock n’ roll? Maybe the whole reason I hate it when they play their music this loud is that, apart from the fact that it turns my bed into the Magic Fingers and terrifies my cat, I don’t know anything about this kind of music. In fact, it could be fifties rock n’ roll for all I know. The people upstairs are Brazilian, and they play their music at unbelievable decibels and they have a lot of relatives and friends who come in and out all the time shouting and they sleep eight to the apartment though I know their lease has only three names on it and they are drunk from mid-day Friday until Monday morning. All of this a horrendous stereotype. It is also true. Now, I have never considered myself to be a racist. And I consider this a lot, which is why I can say that I am not a racist. I can say it because I know that saying I am not a racist makes me sound like a liar and a fuck-up, and although I have been both of those things in my lifetime, I promise I’m not anymore. I also know that I had an advantage in this respect, in that I did not grow up in a household that encouraged hatred of any kind or the singing of Deutchland Uber Alles. My parents always said African-American and never shortened it to Afro-. But beyond that I have tried very hard as adult to become, in fact, an anti-racist, which is a word that very political people believe very strongly in and real people know enough to laugh at. I have always tried to slough off the racial privilege that is my unwanted although acknowledged inheritance. Of course, I am aware that it is only a certain amount of privilege that has allowed me to see that this is necessary. The fact remains, though, that I am white and the people upstairs are Brazilian and I don’t even know what the people downstairs are. And what kind of educated, interested, sensitive, politicized person can’t recognize the origin of the name Flavio? Which is pasted above the doorbell that the woman downstairs couldn’t hear ringing this morning because her music was so loud. I have thought about this problem, the problem of the ethnicity of my neighbors, in two ways: 1. if I am really so radicalized then I should treat all people the same. Meaning that I should bang their door down and stage a hunger strike in their living room until they agree to stop doing anything at that volume ever. But I am too socially aware to think that all people are the same, or that anyone even wants that to be true. 2. if I moved to a foreign country I would be quiet, respectful and humble, so they, being first-generation, should subscribe to these standards. This is not really true either because they have come to America which does not value quiet and humility and has no real culture of its own to respect. And anyway, they have probably come to this country to get away from something my country has done to the detriment of theirs. Now I can hear running and shouting, yelling and slamming doors overhead. I do not know if this signifies danger or that the landlord has arrived to scream at them in Portuguese. Or maybe just that more people or more booze or some small victory has arrived in my apartment building. But what if it is the landlord? And he is speaking Portuguese. He could be saying that the skinny white girl with funny hair and the boring name who lives on the second floor has called to complain about them. What if the people upstairs and the people downstairs, instead of killing each other over the use of the staircase like they do in my fantasy, work together and come after me? I am somewhat consoled that I do not have a car for them to key or slash the tires of, like the people across the street did to the people downstairs when they blocked their driveway last week. And also, they can’t egg my house because they would be egging their own house if they did that. I know that every culture and every people has its obnoxious equivalent of my neighbors. Certainly there are enough white people to cover half of Africa that I wouldn’t want to live with. But no matter how I look at it I hate my neighbors. I hate them so much. I hate everything about them. And maybe I hate them because they are different, and I hate what everyone has always hated about people who are different: they have thrown a party and I am not invited, and I have no right to complain.





Amy L Clark is assistant professor of English Composition at Pine Manor College. Her work has appeared in Quick Fiction, The American Book Review, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Hobart, and several other literary journals, and her collection Wanting is available as part of the book A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness (Rose Metal Press). Amy is still planning to be a rocket surgeon when she grows up.


A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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