On standing behind my door and waiting for my neighbor to leave.


…first off, I’m not crazy. It cannot be me alone.

I turn off the lights, close the windows and walk up the narrow hallway past the printed rug on my wall towards the doorway. As I touch the doorknob, I can hear the latch of the opposing door across the hallway.

I freeze in place. I slowly put my hand back at my side.

If I open the door at the same time, I would feel obligated to exchange greetings. I don’t necessarily want to speak to my neighbors. There is the half smile or smirk that I give when cornered. “Hi”. But usually I prefer a quiet promenade down the stairwell and out the building. On occasion, I fly into my apartment at the mere threat of approaching footsteps to avoid the awkwardness of a conversation with a stranger, who may know more about you than you think. Am I antisocial? The tenants on the 3rd floor have had stage-side seats to the messiness and complications of their neighbors. What have they heard, seen or smelled coming out of my apartment?

I can hear her keys clinking about twenty feet away. I assume it’s a ‘her’. I feel that I ought to leave my apartment, like a normal adult, say ‘hello’ like a grownup and get on with my day. But instead I am standing in my hallway, straining to hear the footsteps trail down the stairs. I cringe at the idea of walking backwards because then she may hear the footsteps moving away from the door. I don’t want my neighbor to think that I peer through my peephole whenever someone leaves their apartment. I am definitely not that crazy person. I prefer to stand here as still as possible until the footsteps fade. I am making sure that my weight stays evenly distributed between my two legs so that the wooden floors of this prewar building doesn’t give me away.

An apartment building can be like a little community where everyone knows too much about the neighbors. It is much better to protect yourself by not bumping into anyone in the hallway.  Even worse I may end up behind her on the stairs and have to pretend to check my phone because she’s a slow walker walking slowly. When older people are forced to step aside, I feel guilty as though I am hurrying them along. Not so bad that I would let the opportunity pass. However, I don’t want to be known as the guy who rushes older tenants down the stairs.

After a few minutes, I can no longer hear the footsteps on the granite stairwell. I give her a few more minutes, in the event that she decides she needs to check the mailbox . Am I in the clear? Perhaps. However, there may be someone else behind one of the other 4 apartment doors also waiting to enjoy a solitary trip out of the building. So I wait an additional 2 minutes just to give any other tenants the chance to leave.  Do I step backwards? Nope$ I don’t want other tenants to think that I stand behind my peephole guarding the hallway. No one takes the opportunity, and after 3 minutes the hallway and the stairs are mine.


She was downstairs at the building’s entrance, waiting for a car. I half smiled and said “Hello”.

– Anxious Brother

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