Please help us give L.J. LaBarthe a warm welcome.
When I first put fingers to keyboard for this post, I was going to rant about medical specialist waiting rooms. I feel I'm quite an aficionado of the waiting room, and so my rant was going to be about the bland decor, the muzak, the somnolent effect of the too-warm air-conditioning. And then I went outside of my apartment to put out my garbage and something happened to me that made me rethink my position on the waiting room rant.
I speak, dear friends, of the joys that are apartment block living.
I live in a small block of apartments. It's a great block, six apartments in total and our landlady is honestly the best landlady I have ever had. I've lived here ten years now, and I've had some wonderful times and some terrible, traumatic times here. I've also had some truly hilarious times, times that can only be summed up – and often are – by the phrase, "L.J., this would only happen to you!"
So, to return to the incident that decided me on changing the subject of my rant. As I said, I was outdoors, putting out my garbage. It was a Friday night, just after 10pm. I was, as most people who live in apartment blocks and go into communal areas, fully clothed. Okay, so maybe not in my silk evening gown and diamonds, but still. I was dressed. And this is important.
Anyway, as I had paused by my front door, one of my upstairs neighbours came bouncing down the stairs, also to put his garbage out. I made a face much like that of a stunned goldfish when he appeared, for lo, his state of dress was remarkably less than mine.
Never have I looked up at the sky so fast.
Now, I applaud him being comfortable in his own skin. All power to him. However, wandering around the communal areas of the apartment block, wearing naught but tighty whities and a t-shirt, with everything God gave you outlined by cotton fabric is, I think, taking it just a little bit too far. Especially as this isn't a nudist apartment block and the communal areas open out onto a fairly busy road.
This isn't the first out of the ordinary thing that I've experienced here. It is, perhaps, the only one involving exposed flesh, but in the aggregate, not even remotely peculiar. I love this apartment block – it gives me so many ideas for things to put in my books – as much as I get irritated at being kept awake so often! Which brings me to the next thing that is the bane of the apartment block resident. Noise late at night.
This same exposure friendly neighbour is also given to practising his guitar. Not a problem. Except that he decides it's going to happen at midnight or later and I tend to like my sleep. I feel like the crazy cat lady who bangs on the ceiling with a broom, squawking "SHUT UP!"
If it's not him, then it's his neighbours, who are a young couple and very lovely people. I was reading in bed one night a few months ago, something that's pretty regular for me, and I heard a strange sound above my head.
"What are they doing?" I asked my cat. The cat, alas, had no answer. So I strained to listen harder, and was utterly confused – it sounded as if my upstairs neighbours were sawing planks of wood. Who saws planks of wood at 11pm? Or, in fact, in their inner suburban apartment at all?
It wasn't until I heard the screams of passion, that I realised there was an entirely different kind of wood involved and suddenly decided that listening to my iPod would be a much better choice of soundtrack to my book.
My bedroom wall is a shared wall with next door's living room, and my ceiling is the floor of Confidently Exposing Himself To All And Sundry neighbour. I'd always thought these walls were pretty thick, but they aren't as thick as I thought they were. So, the Lumberjack Couple, every time that tell-tale sawing planks noise starts up, make me reach for my iPod. I sometimes wonder who else in the block can hear them, but it's not the sort of thing you bring up in the polite small talk with the rest of the neighbours. I don't have the courage, really, to say, "So, just wondering, can you hear our upstairs neighbours bonking at all hours? No? Just me then, righto." I'm blunt, but not that blunt!
Strangely enough, my living room wall is shared by a stair well and the communal laundry, wherein our landlady kindly provides us with a washing machine and dryer. This side of the apartment is much less noisy than my bedroom side. I sometimes wonder how that works, given that a washing machine isn't a very quiet appliance, and it's an industrial one designed for big loads and frequent use. Plus, the stairs are made of steel, so sometimes people going up and down them, depending on their shoes, sounds like a herd of galloping elephants. Still quieter than my bedroom!
I've had some scary experiences here, too. Several years ago, there was a gang war in the communal drive way, by the carport. I never got the full story, and I think I'm quite glad of that, but the upshot was that the police were called, our local version of CSI were here and it was, essentially, my own live action police drama in the front of the apartments.
Because I need to share these things, and it wasn't too late in the evening, I picked up my phone and called my friend Min and sat, whispering to her a running commentary of everything that was going on, while sitting in the dark. I peered through a crack in the door, because I didn't want to be seen, and Min laughed and laughed in between my statements of, "Oh my god, someone's running away from the cops!" and "Oh my god, CSI are here!"
Apartment living is never dull! But oh, sometimes I wish it was. If only because I really, really like my sleep.
Oh, and Dude Who Parks His Tractor In The Front Yard, I have one question for you. Just one.
That question is this. WHY?!
L. J. LaBarthe is a South Australian woman living in the city of Adelaide with her cat, Castiel, in an apartment block that provides endless entertainment. She writes to get the bunnies out of her head, and can be found at her website or her blog or her twitter @brbsiberia. Her latest release is the Christmas themed novella set in Darwin, Australia, called Long Road Back, and is available here at Dreamspinner Press. Her full length novel, No Quarter, about Archangels in love, will be available in the first quarter of 2012, also with Dreamspinner Press.
Yoo Lee Shin had great hopes for his new life studying engineering in Australia, but nothing could have prepared him for the wonder of falling in love. His roommate’s brother, Craig, is beautiful, kind, and brave—and, very shortly after they meet, he’s deployed. As Christmas nears, can Shin keep hope for a happy ending bright enough to guide Craig to him on the long road back?