After the Upstairs Baby and his parents moved away, the building settled into a beautiful peacefulness. As much of a beautiful peacefulness as a building on a major thoroughfare can settle into, that is. Buses and motorcycles and semi trucks and fire engines and drunk people continue to pass by my windows in a constant stream. The trash pick-up and its crashing cans and idling truck still wakes me every Tuesday at dawn. Nevertheless, there was no noise coming from overhead and this changes everything.
For months the apartment stood empty and then erratically scheduled open houses started cropping up. My next door neighbor and I would sneak to our front door peepholes and spy on the would-be tenants and then send each other panicky judgmental emails in which we assessed how noisy we thought people would be based largely on their outfits. Once, I had a brief exchange with two young women as I was leaving the house and concluded that they were wearing way too much makeup to be quiet people. I know. I wasn't proud of it.
Last weekend, I heard some commotion in the entry way, so I sneaked to the peephole (I know, I know) to gather reconnaissance about the latest open house. Except this time, it was what I had dreaded most: strangers with keys. The management company does not allow anyone to view the apartment without an official minder, so strangers with keys can only be neighbors. We had new neighbors. Three of them. Three very young men. Three young men who probably had a passion for techno music, a penchant for indoor lacrosse, a rotating roster of shrill girlfriends, nothing in their fridge but a keg, and aspirations to master the electric guitar. Shit.
My (beloved) next door neighbors were out of town, so I sent inflammatory electronic dispatches with every new development: I can hear their stereo! They have a motorcycle! They keep laughing! Each missive generated the desired alarmed response: we were duly united against the invasion.
Nevertheless, I make it a policy to bake for new neighbors, usually almond cake, though once chocolate chip cookies. This is a very small building and we are all in each other's pockets. There is no reason not to begin with neighborliness (and secret slanderous emails). Additionally, many of my neighbors have been new not only to the city, but to the United States. Are these poor people meant to just innately understand the intricacies of San Francisco trash separation? I think not. I am a self-appointed one-woman Welcome Wagon armed with treats and information galore.
I decided that for a trio of young men, cupcakes were the way to go. I had neither the necessary ingredients, nor the time to get them, so I skulked around like a criminal for a couple days for fear of meeting the neighbors in a cupcakeless context, thereby undermining my dazzling premeditated friendliness with the sort of sloppy spontanenous friendliness practiced by normal people.
On Monday night, I launched Operation Cupcake immediately after work. As soon as they were cool enough to frost (among the stickiest undertakings of my life, incidentally. I will henceforth stick with almond cake) I started getting nervous. What if the boys didn't get home until midnight and the cupcakes were already stale? What if they were out of town for Thanksgiving? What if they are vegans? Soon though, I heard someone fumbling with the lock (I can't help it. Our entryway has the astonishing acoustic properties of an ancient Greek theatre and these guys are routinely having a great deal of trouble with their keys) and basically ambushed him. With cupcakes. A big-city danger that his mother probably never even warned him of.
And that is how I came to meet Filippe, a young man from Chile by way of Madison, WI. with a wide, dimpled smile. He says that should anything ever be too noisy, they will knock it off immediately. He tells me that all three of them are friends from Madison and all three now engineers at Tesla. It is his first real job. They don't yet have a dish drainer, or matching silverware, or a trash can, or a table, he tells me, but they're working on it. He tells me that if I ever need to move anything heavy, I should call on them for assistance. He appreciates knowing about the trash, the back yard, the location of BART, and where I get my favorite burrito. Above all, he appreciates my assurances that he is not crazy, that Whole Foods is really expensive.
This morning, there is a knock on the door. I open it to a smiling Filippe. We both have bedhead, but he wears his better. "Hi neighbor." he says. "I don't know if you have any plans for tonight..." And then my young neighbor, who has lived in San Francisco for three weeks, and in this apartment for five days, invites me to join them and some of their friends for Thanksgiving dinner. Suddenly we are acting out the fanciful 4th grade version of the Thanksgiving story. I have been cast as the Indian, who has shared knowledge and exotic foodstuffs of my native land, and he, the Pilgrim, having cobbled together a passable homestead, makes this overture of thanks and fellowship by offering some food he has foraged for himself.
The earnest kindness of this invitation overwhelms me.
I tell him that I will actually be spending the holiday with my family. "Even better!" he says. "Do you have a table yet?" I ask him. "No." he smiles. "But we're getting one today!" I thank him again and wish him a good evening. We agree that we'll see each other soon. "Peace out." he says by way of farewell.
Peace out, everyone.