The car was parked unusually close to my apartment. It was foggy and I didn’t recognize the passengers. I had to take my dogs out. I usually take both dogs, but I only took one this time. Maybe I was subconsciously preparing for the fight or flight response. I surely can’t respond with two big strong dogs pulling on me.
They were still sitting in the car when I came back to get my other dog. I said hello and the young woman in the driver’s seat returned my greeting. The subject of my neighbor quickly came up. He’s been harassing me for two months.
I thought she was being nice but then she cursed. I asked her to repeat herself. She verbally insulted me.
I have a rebellious nature that doesn’t always serve me well. I responded, but not by taking flight, which I should have done. I told her what I thought of my neighbor and that’s when he got out of the car.
He had a strange hat on and didn’t look like himself. She got out right after he did. He was clearly more intoxicated than I’d ever seen him, which must have taken an incredible amount of alcohol. He walked around the car towards me. He began his attack with a vulgar one-man show.
I was stunned but not too surprised by my neighbor’s behavior. It was a clear view of what I had felt during the times I had tried interacting with him. There had been a constant current of contempt seeping from his pores and he reveled in it like the insects in the sticky sweet sap from the wounded oak tree in my yard this past summer.
Being around him each time had left me raw and open, as if like the oak, something had struck a part of my foundation.
I made brief eye contact with the young woman. We had both stood silently while he acted out.
“Why don’t you try talking to him?” she asked me.
Her remark actually surprised me more than the neighbor’s behavior had.
“You see the kind of person he is?” I asked her. Obviously she didn’t.
“He’s really a good guy,” she said.
I guess she’s an optimist. Maybe she believes she has magic powers that will reveal this “good guy.”
His behavior over the past two months had led to eviction papers but he blamed me.
I guess I was being the optimist too because I thought if I asked him one more time to be quiet, especially in front of a woman he wanted to impress, that maybe he would listen. I was wrong.
“Why don’t you just leave me alone? I need sleep. I have…’’ I was going to say fibromyalgia, but he interrupted and began an outlandish verbal bashing.
“Oh and what do you say?” he shouted gloriously. “You say you have fii bro my algia! And what does fii bro my algia mean! That you hurrt!” He drew out the words fibromyalgia and hurt with great scorn.
He shouted fibromyalgia several more times. Amazingly he pronounced it correctly, but then he had told me several times about having been the smartest student in his high school English department. I’d found this curious because he reminded me of it every time I mentioned my writing. It seemed like he needed to always make it understood between us that he was smarter and better than me.
This is all much clearer to me now. Now that it’s all over and I can hear myself think again. For a while, all I heard every day and night was him.
He looked up at the sky continuing to shout out, “Oh I hurt! I hurt! I hurt!”
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” he kept on. He started physically mocking a person in pain by holding his body in ways to act like he was hurting. He included sexual innuendos while he was carrying on. It was a crude and ugly scene.
I can’t say why I stood there witnessing this behavior as long as I did, although I think it only lasted a short time. Responding to a sudden outburst of verbal abuse and being bullied like I was isn’t something I’m well practiced at doing.
“You’re a c**t,” he said. There it was. Hatred that I knew was there. I’m not sure if this surprised me or not. My memory of the event is like one moment in time. I remember more how I felt afterward than I do about when it was happening.
He briefly paced around in a small circle, obviously spewing with anger. He called me that name again. His friend looked a little ashamed, but she didn’t interrupt him.
I wondered how could she be okay with what we both saw. I failed to remember that she’s looking beyond his behavior at some fairy tale in the sky where he’s that, “good guy.”
“I work every day,” I said. I knew nothing I could say would mean anything to him, drunk or sober, but I’d said it anyway.
“Oh yeah, and what do you do! You cry the fibromyalgia blues! You sit home on you’re a** and cry those fibromyalgia blues, and oh how it hurts.” He tried to sing but was way too intoxicated. “I hurt, I hurt, oh I hurt,” he shouted, still looking at the sky. I don’t know why I so clearly remember him looking at the sky while he ranted and raged.
I’ve never cried any fibromyalgia blues to that guy. I did cry twice around him while attempting a friendship, but my tears had nothing to do with fibromyalgia. He was by far one of the rudest people I’ve ever been around and twice he insulted me in ways that caused me to eventually stop speaking to him. The few times I visited him felt like I had entered his personal war zone. Like he took a break from shooting arrows in his backyard and invited me over for some easy shots.
He continued with his drunken spew of contempt standing there in front of my porch. “You sit and cry how you hurt so you can get a check!” He emphasized the word check with a high note. Then of course he mentioned tax dollars.
Some people who claim patriotism don’t seem interested in the big picture of what helps shape our country into a place of opportunity and freedom — for every citizen.
In America we can better our lives, all of us, not just the able-bodied working folks. We can be anything we want to be. We strive to make sure that every child receives an education. We have social aid and many government programs to help needy children, and their families. We also help our disabled and elderly citizens. At least, those are American ideals.
People who don’t understand disability unless there is a wheelchair or a death-bed in sight can be cruel, like my neighbor. Some people will automatically assume a person without these visible affirmations of a handicap or illness is a fraud.
I continued trying to defend myself, which was an odd experience. I didn’t much care what this neighbor thinks of me. The words coming out of my mouth were like dampened cries from another place.
“I paid taxes.” I said. I knew it would only make him madder so again, the rebel in me most likely wasn’t serving my best interests, which is ultimately to have peace in my life. Obviously this means walking away from certain people or situations.
“Yeah. I’m sure they took a little out of your check,” he stammered.
“You are nothing,” he said. He stomped out his cigarette on the ground. “Nothing,” he repeated.
I remember this part clearly. Finally, he began walking away.
“I’m not nothing,” I said quietly. I almost cried but stopped myself. I looked into the young woman’s eyes again wondering, I guess, what she thought of her friend.
“I know that,” she said. She didn’t look pleased about her friend’s behavior, but she was looking for the sunny side of a burnt fried egg.
“You ain’t nothing,” he stopped to say once more before going inside his apartment.
“I’m better than you,” I said calmly, although that response surprised me.
“Ohhh yeah! Oh you are sooo good aren’t you!”
“Yes. I am.” I said. “You’ll be leaving soon,” I added. I shut my door.
That wasn’t his last performance but he’s gone now. It was a long two months.
The short-lived relationship I had with this person was an eye-opening experience for me. I thought I’d be able to spot a narcissist anywhere and easily.
Spotting one and ducking one are different skills.
I don’t know how narcissistic my former neighbor is, but he sure had a mighty large dose of himself. Arrogance and a sense of superiority over most of humanity were traits he proudly displayed. I didn’t know what to think. One day I asked him why he invited me over if he didn’t like anything I ever said and put me down all the time. He said I took things wrong, adding that his friends were all fine with his ways.
I guess there are many reasons a person criticizes others, particularly when it is done with great passion.
“What you see is what you get,” I remember saying to my neighbor months ago.
I finally decided that people who spend a lot of time hiding think everyone else is doing it too, but that’s just a personal theory.
I forgot to keep the light in the watchtower glowing. I forgot that when people prove they are mean and rude to get away from them if I can, instead of trying to figure out if I imagined them being mean and rude. I forgot again to listen to myself. I keep doing that, but then forgetting does remind me to remember.
Thank you for visiting my blog.
This post represents several things to me personally, the best of which, I guess, is what it was like being bullied, although I didn’t write about the aftermath of that evening. It was as hard or harder than standing there witnessing my neighbor’s abuse.
It’s also an extreme example of stigma and disbelief around invisible illness. Although this person was intoxicated, I’ve had the stones thrown at me for looking fine and receiving disability benefits.
It’s about learning to walk away, right away, from people who behave destructively, especially when I am the target. As with most of my posts, it seems to be about listening to myself, or not, depending on how you look at it. I prefer to believe that I’ll eventually get wise(r?).
Also, my friend CJ, who has a great blog about living with fibromyalgia, has repeatedly encouraged me to keep on writing. Write anything she said. In that respect, this post speaks to my rather frequent unfortunate entanglements.
With all that said, I’m happy to have my personal space back, my peace of home and am rather looking forward to the rest of this beautiful season.