Strawberry Hell Forever
Ivy covered the back wall of the house. This creeping, climbing plant, my downstairs neighbor Candida claimed, was the cause of our arguments. For the first year I lived in the ground-floor apartment, the basement remained empty. For twelve months, I stared out of my window onto the overgrown garden, weeds pushing up through patio slabs, birds resting in unpruned trees, cats stalking the birds. Then Candida and Adam arrived. Adam, a cameraman, was rarely home and for the first few weeks, through February into March, things were okay. I made my introductions when I heard them in the hallway. Music drifted up from their apartment, along with sounds of sex, and quickly hushed raised voices, but the noises were muffled, unobtrusive. Then spring arrived. Candida appeared in a yellow bikini along with the bothersome 170 BPMs of drum and bass, the merciless thump of Balearic beat, and the electronic whine of Abba. I countered at first â€“ HÃ¼sker DÃ¼, MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e, The Stalin - but to no effect. One day, the rhythmic bombardment began around 8:30am. I was trying to work. I stamped. Hard. The response, instamatic â€“ a loud banging on my floor, their ceiling. I pulled on my Leviâ€™s and ran down the stairs. I waited, took a breath, then knocked. Candida opened the door. Adam stood behind her holding a field-hockey stick. â€œWould you mind turning the music down? Iâ€™m trying to work.â€ I said. â€œItâ€™s not loud,â€ Candida said; the door a shield between us. â€œIt is. Turn it down, please,â€ I said, turned, and walked back up the stairs. A minute later, there was a knock on my door. I opened it. Candida stood there. â€œCome in,â€ I said. Without asking, she sat down. I sat next to her. â€œDo you eat a lot of red food?â€ she asked. â€œNot particularly,â€ I said, â€œthe odd tomato.â€ â€œWell, you should cut all red food from your diet,â€ she said, â€œthat way, youâ€™ll be less aggressive.â€ I said nothing, felt my penis harden. â€œIâ€™ve poisoned the ivy. Itâ€™s gone brown at the roots. Itâ€™ll be dead in a few weeks,â€ she said. â€œOh, OK,â€ I said. She put her hand on my thigh. â€œWhy donâ€™t I go through your fridge?â€ She stood. I waited, followed her into the kitchen, watched as she threw away my peppers, my chilies, threw away my strawberries.