Neighbor Trouble



"I am the keeper of the cheese,

And you are the meringue merchant..."

-Ren Hoek (Ren and Stimpy)


THIS is a weird one.

I live in a three family house. Mike is on the top floor; I'm on the second floor (same apartment); I have this Korean family on the ground floor, and this guy living in the basement apartment. The basement neighbor (we'll call him Barry) stops by every so often at a barbecue, party, or other event just to say hi.

Other than that I usually only see him in the mornings on my way to the train. I pass him as he returns from 7-11 with his morning paper.

We never thought anything strange about him, but once these events you're about to read happened, I started looking back at some of the other things he's done in a whole new light.

For instance:

One night I woke up smelling smoke. I checked my whole apartment and couldn't find the source. When I went downstairs, I saw my first floor neighbor looking for the fire also. Together we went outside and saw black smoke billowing from the basement window. I sent my neighbor to call the fire department while I went and banged on Barry's door to wake him up. A minute later, he opened the door a crack and asked me what I wanted. I told him there was a fire.

He looked at me and said, "There's no fire."

I told him there was too a fire, and he explained that he was just burning paper in his oven. Apparently he doesn't have a shredder, and this is how he gets rid of stuff. We canceled the fire department and forgot all about it. Who am I to complain about eccentric behavior? I spill my life out on a web page that no one reads, for fun.

A few months later he stopped by to tell us that he was afraid someone was going to break into his apartment. Industrial espionage. We don't even know what he does for a living. Whenever we ask, he tells us he's self employed and works out of his apartment in the computer business. We said we'd keep an eye out.

He came back a week later and said that he's been living somewhere else out of fear because someone finally broke in. We said we didn't see anything, but again, we'd keep looking.

A few days later some cops showed up looking for him and asking us questions. Then they fingerprinted his doorknob. Once again, didn't think anything of it.

He showed up at my New Years Eve party and spent the whole night on the couch complaining about the music, trying to talk to this girl who didn't want anything to do with him, and telling her that she "Just didn't get it," because he was "too abstract" for her. No one thought anything of it at the time; we were all acting silly, so it was almost normal behavior for that night.

Last night, however, his actions were anything but normal.

This will be my only story where I wasn't directly witness to the entire event, but I did see the after affects and was witness to his wackiness first hand on other occasions (and I trust Mike's observations implicitly).

Barry showed up at our apartment at about 9 p.m.. He rang the outside bell because, he said, he had been locked out. He claimed to have no way of getting into his apartment until the next day, and we offered to let him crash on the couch.

He left to go to a coffee shop, and offered to stay there all night, but we said he could take the couch. I went to sleep at about midnight, and apparently Barry showed up at 2. He sat with Mike for a while and promised not to be any trouble.

The first indication Mike had that this wasn't going to happen was when Barry just blurted out of the blue, "Green light - bad, red light - bad, blue light - good." Which He later explained the TV is the green light, and needs to be turned off; the red light is the cable box, off again; and the blue light is the fish tank light. "She wants to watch the fish," he said, "So that can stay on."

"She who?" asked Mike. Barry then explained that his ex-wife locked him out of his apartment. As far as we knew he lived alone. In fact, the only person we've ever even seen talk to him was this woman that he said was his gay sister.

Barry then explained that it wasn't really his ex-wife that locked him out. He just calls her that. It was actually Psyche, "You know, the Greek Goddess?" She got mad at him, and now won't let him back in his apartment. (Hey, it could happen.)

He explained to Mike that he works as a CEO, sort of, for the Technology Partners. They, in conjunction with Psyche and himself, are working on a project that won't be complete for another 200 years. But that's OK; he'll still be here when it's done. See, everyone else moves at the speed of light, really fast, while Barry moves like ether, really slow, or so he claimed.

It seems the Technology Partners put him to sleep until he was sixteen years old, but he remembers everything from during his torpor.

He said that they've basically upped their production (of what, I have no idea) ever since the full moon and lunar eclipse Sunday night.

The only stuff he brought to the apartment with him was a lighter, his jacket, and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea, Chocolate Fudge Float (Light) flavor. The bottle has a picture of a woman on it, and he claimed that that was where Psyche was right now. She watches everything. In fact, she was at the coffee shop, but was in a different woman's body and wouldn't talk to him.

Apparently she changes forms a lot, because he also mentioned that she was at our New Years party, but again, would not talk to him.

Can you say, "Paranoid Schizophrenic?"

In fact, he claimed it was at the New Years party that Psyche first noticed Mike and me, and she likes us. She wants Mike to join her and the Technology Partners and do their P/R.

Mike suggested that Barry go check and see if maybe Psyche was ready to let him back in. Barry went down the stairs, tried the door and told him it was still locked. He went around the back of the house to try the back door. By the time he got halfway (Mike was watching from the window), Barry stopped for a few seconds and came back upstairs. He said that Psyche started yelling at him from the basement window, so he gave up.

Mike finally left Barry on the couch and went upstairs. He told me that he couldn't even close his eyes because he was so afraid of what that wacko might do while downstairs. When he finally heard the door close indicating Barry had left, he let himself fall asleep.

I woke up the next morning and went to the fridge for some Pepsi (like I do every morning). Except this morning there was none. I know I put two bottles in there last night, and I could have sworn that the fridge was much more full back then also. It looked pretty empty for some reason. On the kitchen table was a bag of ice, melting, and dripping on the floor. In the living room, two candles were lit and left to burn all night. One of the votive holders exploded from the heat at some point. Thank God there was no fire. Someone had left their jacket on the floor, and the place was basically trashed.

It looked to me like Mike had some friends over last night; they quietly destroyed the place and ate everything in the fridge. It's happened before. I let it slide.

I left the apartment and went down the stairs to the front door. In front of Barry's door (and blocking the first floor neighbor's door) was all the stuff from my fridge, a lot of my books, and things taken off my bookshelf, as well as things taken from my kitchen and bathroom cabinets. It was all lined up in neat rows surrounding another melting bag of ice. Directly in front of everything was a bottle of Chocolate Fudge Float (Light) flavored Arizona Iced Tea.

I stared at the arrangement for about a minute before leaving for work completely confused. When I got to work, I called Mike and woke him up. I asked him what happened last night, and he told me I wouldn't believe it. I asked if he had seen what was in the hallway by Barry's door, and he went down to check it out. It turns out that there were messages (sort of) written out in the placement of certain books. There was also some strange Pez fascination going on.

Mike also found a note Barry had written on a check from Mike's checkbook, check number 999 (a clue?).

The note read, "Thanks... you're being promoted to Minister of Disinformation (…and on the other side…) meet me 7:31 p.m. 03/25/97 at White Castle... different form... identify yourself (many times if need be)."

The check was also covered with his initials which he had scrawled all over it.

When something like this happens in your apartment, you truly start to worry about the capacity of the locks on your door.

Mike brought our stuff back up, threw out whatever he was worried about, and left the bottle of Arizona Iced Tea in front of Barry's apartment with the label facing the door.

That night, I called my landlord and told him the story. He was in shock. He used the typical response when asked about a neighbor: "He's such a quiet guy." Yeah, that's what everyone says when told there's a wacko living near them. If Barry does turn out to be a serial killer, I think Mike and I will be the only people in history to tell the reporters that we always knew he was psychotic. Insane in the membrane I think is the phrase we'll use.

The landlord told me he hadn't seen Barry in a few months. The rent was paid, but last time he was in the apartment, the place was covered with newspapers. Also, recently he had been noticing that Barry was taking worse and worse care of himself, not shaving, and looking very unkempt. The last time the landlord had been over, he told me that a woman came to the door (Psyche incarnate?) and told him where the rent check was.

I told him to warn the downstairs neighbors not to let him in their apartment.

So far, no one has seen or heard from Barry. I still find it hard to believe that this happened in my house. I'm a little upset to have lost most of the food that was in the fridge (some went bad being left out all night, and some you just throw out for fear of what he might have done to it while it was out there), but I'm more upset that I now have to worry about my crazy neighbor. I'm also a little put out by the fact that on New Years Eve, Barry was standing in front of me when my diaper was ripped off. I wonder what Psyche thought of that.

For the next few days, there have been other strange things left outside the house. First there was a potted plant and a coffee mug left outside Barry's window, and this morning I found that same bottle of Arizona Iced Tea (at least I think it's the same bottle) on the step outside the front door. Maybe Barry finally threw her out.

We actually tried to get the poor guy help, but apparently it's not against the law to be crazy, and even if we were willing to pay for his stay in an "Institution," we couldn't legally commit him.

I guess no matter what, these days it sometimes pays to be a little wary of anyone that you don't know well. Like the old saying goes, "It's not whether you're paranoid or not, it's whether you're paranoid enough."

That kind of psychosis can sometimes be contagious. It's good to know I'm above it.

I mean, I still feel that everyone in New York is crazy and paranoid, completely insane, every one of them.......except for me and Mike.......and I'm starting to wonder about Mike......


-Spat 3/28/97


If you have any questions, E-Mail me.