When I tell the story about the water, or any of the other trials and tribulations of living in a circa very freaking old building in a city that doesn’t exactly take care of its old treasures, I have to include my neighbors. I’ve had a couple of living situations in my life that have turned me off of becoming particularly friendly with my neighbors. There’s the midnight dropins, the borrowing and lending, and the policing. I lived in a building in Portland, Oregon, where one of the sets of neighbors kept their apartment door open all the time as though the hallway was their front yard. I was in law school, and somewhat desperate for non law school friends, so I befriended these crazy people. And they started to watch my comings and goings, who I was with, what I was wearing. And it made me crazy, crazy I tell you. Sometimes all a girl wants in life is to go unnoticed.
So I try pretty hard not to get to know people particularly well in the building. The couple next to me and I had a riotous avocado/freshies exchange for a while, where I would gift them avocadoes and they would bring me other farm goodies. But the one with the farm connection left when they split up, and I could never remember which one was which anyway. (two men, two names I often mix up, I think they’re Marcelo and Claudio, but I can’t remember who stayed). Anyway, I know a bunch of my neighbors by sight, or at least by sound, like the old guy who seems to have developed a worrisome cough in the last several weeks. Or the agoraphobic woman from the older couple who used to fling herself against the back wall of the elevator if I was in there with her. She’s gotten used to me, though, and now we can peacefully coexist in the tiny cubicle.
So I try to be anonymous, not talk to anyone too much, and certainly not bring any attention to which apartment I live in, alone with my computer, camera and bicycle collection. Periodically there are neighbor-association meetings, which take place in the lobby, and bad timing requires that I walk through them to get either to the elevator or up the stairs. It reminds me of the neighbors in Portland who kept their door open all the time, as everyone watches me wrestle my bike into the elevator or onto my shoulder for the long walk up.
I try to be piola (cool, low-profile, unassuming) here in the building, and in general. And then I remember that I live in Chile, and I stick out like a sore thumb whereever I go. The guy I occasionally buy goat cheese from at a store about five blocks from my house spied me yesterday out walking. And from across the street, he waved and said hello. Forget about anonymity. I live in a freaking fishbowl.