I Saw My Neighbour Naked

I saw my neighbour naked. There were nipples bobbling, a free fall of pubic hair and a hint of a vaginal lip. I didn’t know whether to scream, faint or declare myself blind forever. All I did know was that I had seen a forbidden forest and things were never going to be the same again.

My neighbours have always been an acquired taste. They’re the type to knock on your door just to say ‘hi’ which I’m sure hasn’t been legal since the 1960’s. They like to leave jigsaws by the front door in case anyone is feeling, in their words, ‘adventurous’. It’s as adventurous as discovering a verruca. They like to put the post in alphabetical order for all those that, I can only assume, can’t read their own name.

One such neighbour that lives directly below likes to announce what he’s eating as he’s eating it. I always get slightly concerned when the word ‘fish’ is screamed. Next to him lives a couple that seem to be able to set the fire alarm off using only two slices of bread and a piece of ham. At the bottom of the stairs are a group of souls that regard themselves as ‘hippies’ which I’m sure is a more politically correct term for having a gang bang. On ground floor, there’s a man that seems to dial an 0800 number for all those lonely nights and next to him is a woman that is more Sweeney Todd than Nigella Lawson in the cooking department. The house smells like dead people.

This is all part of living in a block of flats in an area where foxes are allowed to sit on your doorstep whilst your neighbours strum a guitar singing Kumbaya.

I, too, have my faults. I like to play Westlife at a night time to remember the glory days of the nineties. I can also hold my hands up and admit that I have cooked a fried egg or two at an inappropriate time on a Saturday morning however, no one has been scarred by the sight of my au naturel under parts.

I always knew she was one of those ‘open’ women who shared their deepest darkest secrets with the entire population from the moment she moved in.

“I just love watching Countryfile.” She said on introduction. I bowed my head in embarrassment, had she no shame?

After this came the washing machine incident. My clothes were in the middle of their weekly spin, enjoying themselves no doubt, when they were stopped by her. She wanted to know what was in the washing machine. It doesn’t exactly take a trip from the phantom of Einstein to reveal what was in the machine but she had to be sure. When I came down to see her fondling my sopping underwear, it became one of those socially awkward situations where there was nothing to say but ‘erm’.

“Lovely bras.” She said, smiling with her I’m-a-pervert style lips.

This could only mean one thing, she was either simply commenting on my fantastic taste in women’s lingerie or she was having a jolly old time with my smalls.

I decided to let that slide. After all, she hadn’t done the worst thing in the world and stolen my two pounds out of the machine door. But then came that fateful Sunday evening.

All was well in the house. I was enjoying a repeat of Golden Balls and everything was just as appropriate as a church sermon…until the screaming began. It was a high pitched scream as though she was in pain but enjoying the rollercoaster of life at the same time. I pondered whether to ensure her safety from what could possibly be an attack from the jigsaw maniac or ignore the rude interruption of my programme. Suddenly, without a thought for my own wellbeing, I hurtled across to her flat with my dressing gown floating in the distance. This was finally the moment that I could be a caped hero. What greeted me next was only for Hugh Hefner’s imagination. I saw things that fully grown men would weep at having come face to face with and I, for one, was ready to weep. As I squinted my eyes and slowly walked backwards, some Golden Balls that didn’t quite match what was on my television appeared.

After that, I remember nothing. It’s like a sordid cloud of smoky perversion sent me into a coma. When I woke, I knew I never wanted to see nipples darting towards me ever again. I knew I never wanted to help a neighbour in need ever again. But mostly, I knew I would never trust someone that liked Countryfile for as long as I live.

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Broken Homes, Broken Record

I’ve never met my Dad. He’s out there somewhere in this world not knowing my name, my age or my number. He doesn’t care and neither do I and that’s the harsh reality of it. Some men were born with the physical inability to grow a pair of at least average-sized testicles and feel paternal love. Some men give it in abundance.

I am not filled with hate or a sense of rejection. I am not waiting one day for a love-filled reunion where he can shower me in birthday presents, Christmas presents, graduation presents and I-wanted-you-aborted presents. In my head, I see a man that my imagination has allowed to grow as years have passed and the only constant is the disappointment in his eyes at having to look at the sperm he unleashed twenty one years ago.

There are some people who are either full of good faith or possibly suffer from our long term friend naivety that claim being a parent is just as hard as the presidency. They argue that to know your child’s first name is a step too far in the maturity level of manhood and that men simply have to perform a magic trick and disappear. I fear this is as true as going to the back of my wardrobe and stepping into a fairy tale land of Narnia.

Growing up, it was never a deep dark secret as to why the man that forgot to use a condom one day wasn’t there to play against the other fathers on sports day. It was out in the open like some sort of infectious disease that other dads could catch, become ill with and eventually abandon all involvement with their own children. I was told, in very simplistic terms so my four year old mind could understand them, that he ‘just didn’t want you.’ But to me, it didn’t matter because I had Bananas in Pyjamas on video and those trusty old friends always wanted me.

When you reach a certain age, you realise you’re part of something bigger like a revolution of the half-parented. There’s a school full of abandoned students daydreaming just that little bit longer in class. There’s a street full of children holding onto their mother’s hand just a little bit tighter. There’s a world full of people loving their partner just a little bit stronger.

You meet people and discover their broken-home status. You feel relieved that you’re not alone in knowing more about Leonardo Dicaprio than your own father. You don’t know his age or his hair colour or how his touch would feel. The relief is short-lived. There’s a look in people’s faces and it’s a look as though a part of them is lost somewhere in gravity and no force, no matter how strong or scientifically proven, can bring it back to them. This, however much it is denied, is unmistakable.

In most cases, children grow closer to the parent that chose to nurture them and who taught them that they weren’t going to die if they let go at the top of a really big slide. There tends to become an unbreakable bond that life, in all its many stages, cannot tarnish for that one love does conquer all.

For some of us, it doesn’t quite work out that way. The cracks were always there; no loving kisses goodnight or a hug before school. The years start to erode at the parental relationship until there is nothing but debris left and you wonder if there had ever been love at all. You wonder what having a mother would feel like and how there was such distance there that you may as well live in a foreign land. You try at length to build something, no Eiffel Tower of emotions but something that you could feel inside your chest when you couldn’t breathe. But sometimes, just sometimes, all is lost.

I think it’s a sad truth and statistic that broken homes are becoming more of a norm. If parents aren’t together but a child still knows the difference between Pat Butcher from Eastenders and who their mother is, life has pulled itself together. If not, us children that society tries to ignore or who they are slightly embarrassed of will be fine.

I read a quotation once in an English class back in secondary school and it is one that has stuck with me when delving into what my mind tells me not to – ‘smooth seas do not make skilful sailors.’ We are skilful and we are not alone, parents or no parents, we will know how it feels to be truly, heart-warmingly loved.

Mould-infested Tragedy

It was a mould-infested tragedy. My eyes couldn’t see past the thick, greying bacteria that lolloped above my head as though happy to be vomit-inducing. I felt the mould dangle half way down the ceiling and half way onto my top lip. It was stringy in a way that made you want to tie it around your neck and allow the estate agent to finally understand the pain he was putting you through.  

            “As you can see, almost nearly perfect.” He’d said, keeping his hands in his pockets and smiling at me in a way that said I’ve-been-trying-to-rent-this-since-1982.

            “Nearly.” It wasn’t that I was agreeing, I was merely repeating the word in pure astonishment. Plus, I knew if I’d parted my lips more than a fraction, I’d have to disinfect my entire face and there wasn’t enough bleach in the world for that. How could this furry ceiling fresh out of an interior design magazine for the blind be considered even close to perfection?

The flat, in Greenford, was advertised as a ‘glistening studio flat for two.’ When I read the word ‘glistening’, I thought of that Mr Muscle advert with the man flexing his tiny biceps and shining kitchen surfaces. I pictured walking through a doorframe that was free of fungi and all things that wouldn’t float if they fell into my freshly made cup of tea.

            I’d called up almost instantly after seeing the small photograph of the flat on the famous-for-being-ever-so-legit GumTree website. It looked small but in a homely way; somewhere you could eat in without getting E-coli and dying a very sad and lonely death. The estate agent, Derek, had seemed pleasant in a way that only estate agents could. He’d offered to meet me at the property the next day and show me around.

When I arrived outside the flat, Derek was waiting. His hair had been slicked back with either gel or the sweat that had smothered his entire forehead. He’d greeted me politely with a swift handshake and a smile and it was a moment of optimism that we would share for mere seconds. He unlocked the door and strolled through; his shoes sinking into the black hole of dirt that had once been carpet. I looked at the walls and began coughing instantly; somehow the very sight of damp, wotsit-orange stains had reduced my lungs to a dysfunctional mess.

We exchanged few words and I said through minuscule breaths that I would call him after I’d ‘given it some thought.’ The only time that would be in my mind was in the darkest depths of my nightmares.  I’d rushed out of the front door so quickly as though the flat was sipping me disease juice in its infected air space and stood on the pavement outside. I pondered the option of going to Accident and Emergency; after all, this viewing was a very large accident and I’d consider the health of my nostrils, eyesight and lungs as a very personal emergency.

I tell this story to warn you of the mould-like dangers that hang over you (quite literally) when you’re home hunting. Beware of the fraudulent pictures that promise you Buckingham Palace but deliver you nothing more than a cardboard box full of Halloween-like horrors.