Deanna Raphael
August 15, 2012 5:00 am

So you know how you live in a building and you don’t really know your neighbors but you live on the first floor, in the first apartment by the mailboxes so everyone has an awareness you? And you know how there’s that neighbor who always makes super intense eye contact with you as he walks down the stairs, and his stare makes you uncomfortable because it has a sprinkling of serial killer in it,  so you consistently try to avoid his stare by looking at the ground but it burrows into your neck and down your spine? And then you know how as the months go by, you dare to raise your eyes up from the ground and connect with that fiery gaze to see if you can decipher if it’s a gaze of passion or destruction? You can’t really tell, but it does make you feel something and you’re not sure if that something is intrigue or horror, so you smile at him but he doesn’t smile back so you assume it’s the latter and decide your eyes are better served staring at the ground. But he has a cute bod and you’re pretty sure most serial killers don’t have bouncy brown curls.

And then you know how you post your sketch group’s flyer on the community cork board in the hopes of drumming up an audience and then, a few weeks later, when you get home from the show you find a note under your door signed,“Dave from 203”? You immediately know that “Dave from 203” is “Mr. Stare and Scare” who you’ve successfully been avoiding for the last six months. The note reads that he really liked the show and thought it was funny. And you are completely surprised and delighted and mildly petrified. And you – still buzzing from the success of the show – are feeling frisky and want to stay in the spirit of unexpected notes under doors, so you go up a flight of steps and slip a note under his door that says, “Thank you so much for coming to out to my show. That was so sweet! Deanna aka 101.”

And then you know how you’re back in your apartment getting ready for bed and hear a knock on the door? And you realize “203” took your note as an immediate invitation? I had just changed into comfy duds and my hair was on top of my head with a thick terrycloth band wrapped around it—I wasn’t expecting company. I ripped the band off, threw a bra on and answered the door. “203” was standing in front of me looking a little bashful and sorta sweet. He said, “Hi.”

I realized that in the six months I had lived there, I hadn’t really gotten a good look at his face. It was cute, like a lil’ feral simion monkey.

He didn’t really seem to have a game plan past that initial salutation, which paired nicely with my anxious, it’s-too-late-for-strange-neighbor-boy-to-be-at-my-door spiral. The spiral was me running at the mouth a mile a minute about my show and how sweet it was that he came and about posting flyers in public spaces and how nice it was that he came out and how we were working on new material and how don’t usually wear such bland pajamas aaaaaaaand…  I ran out of steam and waited for a response. He said something along the lines of, “Yeah?”

I blinked back at him waiting for a few more words. I realized that a “yeah” was it. That was all I was going to get.

So I wrapped it up with, “Okay…well…thanks again.” He just stood there, staring at me. I wasn’t scared at his stare this time, just confused about what he wanted.  If he thought he was getting an invitation into my apartment at that hour of the night, he was dead wrong.  You can’t just go see my show and think I’m going to want to hook up with you—that’s  INSANE.  We stayed together in the beat of silence and then he smiled, if you could call it that and walked back up the stairs. I went to bed feeling mildly intrigued and mildly turned off.

The next evening I was home working on the computer when I heard a knock on the door. My stomach clenched. I knew it was “203.” I immediately felt violated and regretted responding to his note. Knocking on my door felt way too familiar.  I stared at the door. It crossed my mind that if I waited long enough he would just think I wasn’t home. The building I lived in was built in the ’20s and my door had no peephole. I slowly opened it and there he was holding a to-go bag from California Chicken. He had brought me a chicken caesar wrap. That’s all it took.

We made out later that night and began a dirty hook-up-a-thon that lasted a few months and never left the confines of the building. I didn’t really care for him as a person. He had very little going on in the personality department and his apartment was littered with pictures of girls from Maxim magazine. But much like to-go wraps from California Chicken, he was convenient. My friends never laid eyes on him and knew him only as “203.” Running down the flight of stairs from his apartment to mine in the middle of the night, praying none of the neighbors saw me, was one of many indications that I wouldn’t be giving him a moment of my time if he didn’t live twelve steps away.

Late Friday afternoon, there was a knock on my door. It was you-know-who. He looked upset. His upset look wasn’t a huge departure from his regular look but I could tell something was wrong. He had gotten fired from his job and wanted to go get a drink.

Two months into having inter-building relations, we were going on our first date. The twisty downhill trek from our building to the Mexican restaurant, El Conquistador, was nice. It was a beautiful day in LA. The walk was filled with colorful flowers and wild, overgrown greens.  I wondered if I had been wrong not to take this “hook-up” out into the fresh air. After a margarita and some food, “203” started getting chatty. He really wanted to download about his job and what happened and who did him wrong. Apparently he had been looking for a job for months before he finally got this one and felt everything in his life was turning around. I wondered if he was including me in that turn around. I couldn’t believe what a Chatty Cathy “203” had turned into. After the second margarita, “Chatty Kathy” was morphing into “Dark Kathy.” He revealed that he had low self-esteem and felt he wasn’t good at anything. I was starting to realize why he usually chose to use so few words, and to his credit, it was the correct choice. I found myself in the position of having to try and make him feel better about himself so I said, “There must be something you’re good at.”

It was the next moment where I knew that the relationship between “203” and myself was confined to 143 Hoover Ave for a reason. A calm came over “203″‘s face and he said, “There’s this one thing. When I’m driving and stuck in traffic, I imagine that my wrists are like Spider-Man’s and I shoot webs out…patchuuu, patchuuu...and I scale the buildings until I’m in my apartment.”

Minutes after that earth-shattering revelation, I told him that I didn’t think we should see each other anymore. He was mad that his bad day had just gotten worse. Learning he has flare for the fantastical, I inquired if he thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend. He let me know that he didn’t see us getting married or anything like that. I mean, I had no desire to even get coffee with him, so marriage was definitely not a consideration that being said I didn’t love that he’d ruled it out so firmly.

When we got back to the building, I invited him in for one final roll in the hay. It was actually pretty good. I think he was using his special skill on me. Patchuuu…patchuuuu!

(Image via Shutterstock).

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