Just as I was cooking my trademark secret recipe pasta sauce the other night I was suddenly disturbed by a loud banging at my front door.
I use the term banging advisedly because although ostensibly the sound was also a knocking it could not, with any degree of accuracy, explain the noise that was being produced.
He was standing there, the mythical new neighbour. He’s lived in the flat above me for at least four months and we’ve never met. But more disturbingly, I realise as I look at him, I’ve never even seen him. He must keep some very strange hours if he goes out at all.
However all of these thoughts are retrospective. My first though when I see him is to notice his thin nylon tracksuit. His incredibly large bald head and his eyes that look, at first, like they’re sweating but actually it turns out that his forehead is sweating, and the swat is running down his eyebrows and into his eyes and then back out again. I wonder now why I didn’t then think that he had been crying but clearly it was obviously a different thing. It was for a start because he would have had to have been crying out of the top of his eyes to account for the tracks. But more importantly because the sweat was crossing his eyes in the middle not in the corners where tears most usually come from.
At any rate I could tell from his demeanour that something seemed to be the matter. “Good evening. Can I help you with something?” I asked. If ever there was a man in need of help it was he. “Can you turn that music down?” he enquired.
“I don’t have any music on.” I replied.
Now at this point perhaps I should explain something. Until this man had come knocking at my door I had been listening to music. But between him knocking and my answering I had turned my music off. Clearly this had caught him off guard.
“But…” he suggested.
“Yes?” I seemed to imply that I wanted him to go on.
“But you did have music on before.”
“It was very loud.”
“Oh,” I positioned myself in an apologetic stance, “I didn’t realise.”
“Yes. It was very loud. You’re always playing music and I can hear it.”
“Oh I’m very sorry. So this has happened before?”
“Yes many times. And I’ve banged on the floor. I’m always banging on the floor.”
“Oh why didn’t you come and ask me to turn my music down before now? That would seem the most sensible thing to do.” I pointed out.
“Well can you just keep your music down” he blustered?
And it was right then that I placed him . He was a maths teacher. He might not actually be a maths teacher precisely but in his heart he was a purveyor of arithmetic.
He had come down, girded up for a big argument. And I had apologised, promised to keep my music down and all in all acted reasonably. But that didn’t matter. He wanted to tell people off. But that was, something I wasn’t going to allow to happen.