Living in my antique apartment has its share of quirks. The high ceilings and drop-pane windows are beautiful, but they make heating and cooling extremely inefficient. The location is within a ten-minute walk of my job, my friends’ house, and my favorite bars and restaurants. My taps have two temperatures—“tepid” and “lava”—and I have a comedically small oven. The hardwood floors are original to the building, but I have become very well-acquainted with my upstairs neighbor and his habits because of those floors.
My neighbor is an ongoing reminder of the old commandment “love thy neighbor.” Now, nothing the man above me does is particularly inconsiderate. Yes, there were mornings when I woke up to (mercifully unused) condoms on my porch (he apologized for making a mess the night before). And yes, there has been the occasional shouting match with who I assume is his girlfriend. But those are the hazards of apartment living, and, seriously, who hasn’t had a fight with their significant other before?
No, working to love my neighbor is more of a struggle for me when he is doing 100% normal day-to-day activities. It’s when someone comes home and walks across the floor wearing high heels that I can hear clearly as I lie in bed trying to fall asleep. It’s when his girlfriend’s young son picks up and drops the same ball over and over and over again. It’s when he’s vacuuming and bonking into furniture when I’m writing. THOSE are the times that I find it hard to love my neighbor, even though he’s innocently going about his life like a normal human being. He’s not doing anything wrong—I’m just being selfish.
My upstairs neighbor doesn’t know me, and he doesn’t know I’m writing this. He certainly doesn’t know that he is an ongoing reminder to me to learn patience, to practice empathy, and to meditate on what it means to love my neighbor as myself.
Even when he’s vacuuming.