I live on the seventh floor of an apartment in midtown Toronto. It’s an alright apartment: clean, good neighbourhood, and an amazing view of downtown and the area’s canopy of trees. But there are down points: Because the rent’s so cheap, the owners don’t put a lot of money into maintaining it. Oh, they do what they have to, the bear minimum. But it’s a fifty-plus-year apartment whose lobby hasn’t been decorated since the 60s (except for the framed, faded photograph of Ontario Place from the 70s), and there’s a brown-stained copy of the Landlord Tenants Act from November 1975 hanging in the mail room. The hallways have water damage that hasn’t been repaired, and notes from the superintendent are handwritten on paper, grammar and spelling mistakes on full display. “To who ever has one of these lockers,” one note taped inside the elevator said, “please let the superintandant know if you took one.”
The weird thing is that it took me about six months to notice any of these things. When I moved in, I was working full time at a lucrative downtown government job (ok, not lucrative, but government does pay well), but I had been living in car-loving Mississauga and was sick of commuting in by transit everyday. I was so excited about finding a cheap apartment in midtown Toronto I didn’t look at the fine details. I liked the big balcony, the decent size of the apartment, and the price. Next time I’ll know what to look for.
So here’s my current problem: The apartment above me, a bachelor I think, has a rotating crop of people who seem to be on a time share. I know this because when I told the superintendent about a leak from above, she said “We’ll have to ask them, but we don’t know who’s there this week.” I didn’t press for details–I don’t pry about my neighbours because, to be honest, I’d rather keep to myself, but now I’m stuck wondering who they are. Are they migrant temporary workers from Mexico who come up to pick tobacco in the summer? My imagination’s going wild.
I don’t say Mexican because it’s only Mexicans who work temp work or that all temp workers are Mexican–it’s just a racist picture in my mind. But I’m pretty sure they take month-long turns sharing the apartment because one of them, a man, is so loud I can hear him talking through the ceiling. In Spanish. But why I think he’s Mexican and not Argentinian or Colombian, or even Spanish, I don’t know. Maybe I am a racist.
He has an extremely heavy gait. I know that he gets up at 7AM and I can tell by his trotting he’s out by 8AM. I don’t know why his gait is so heavy, but I suspect he’s wearing safety boots. But he must wear safety boots all day, because I hear him stomping at night too.
A couple of years ago he played his tv so loudly I could hear what he was watching. American Idol. I knew all the contestants’ names. And I don’t even have cable! I would bang my broom on his balcony until he turned down his tv. I felt like such a miser. Maybe he has hearing issues. But he shouldn’t have been playing it so loudly.
I haven’t heard the stomping for three days now, so I guess he’s moved on. He must be a nomad, living here only a month at a time. I can hear the theme songs from The Littlest Hobo and The Incredible Hulk. He’s like Bruce Banner on the highway hitching a ride, the melancholy piano music playing. The driver will probably accept him enthusiastically, until he hears how loudly he speaks and thumps his feet. And that’s when he’ll end up back here. Torturing me.