In my first creative writing seminar of the semester, my tutor gave us some homework. The task was relatively simple, we had to choose someone who we either like or dislike and write a 500 word piece on them. The catch was that we weren’t allowed to let the reader know how we felt about the subject.
After some thought, I decided that the most appropriate subject from this task was my new next door neighbour, the Lady in Apartment 29. From what we can tell, the Lady in Apartment 29 is hyper noise sensitive. So noise sensitive in fact, that if you were to be having a casual conversation in your apartment at 9:30pm she would feel the subsequent need to yell at you from her adjacent balcony.
After sitting down and brainstorming about who I should choose to write my piece on, I heard the Lady from Apartment 29 yelling at our downstairs neighbours in response to their ‘loud’ music. At once I knew she was perfect for my story. After all she’s mysterious, has enemies and is extremely annoying. The perfect subject for a dramatic short story!
So, I began to write. Knowing relatively little about this woman made it much easier for me to form my own idea of what her life might be like. The funny thing was, the more I wrote the less annoyed I became. While writing I had millions of ideas about the direction in which her life should go, at first, I saw her as an angry, bitter woman with nothing better to do than sit on her balcony and irritate me, but then she started to change. After writing the base of the story I had to question why this woman acts the way she does.
When I finally finished my writing I realised something. I no longer disliked this woman. Sure, I’m not going to go across the hall and try to be best buddies with her, but after spending two days trying to write a logical story around the life of this complete stranger I just stopped being annoyed. The process of writing and trying to figure out her life made me stop and think. I truly know nothing of this person. There is so much more to this annoying neighbour than I could ever hope to understand.
People are complicated. It’s simple and extremely accurate, that one thing about someone that really, really pushes your buttons is just a tiny facet of their personality. To quote Shrek, “Ogres are like Onions” and after writing the story of the Lady in Apartment 29, I have to agree that people, like Ogres, are very similar to Onions. In the 20 years that I have existed on this earth I have developed many little traits and quirks, some that I’m sure are not so well liked, but no singular characteristic that I possess correctly defines me as a person. Strangely, this 500 word task taught me a fairly important life lesson, being that you can never presume to know someone from just one interaction. After hearing the Lady in Apartment 29 yell for the first three nights she lived in my building I assumed I knew who she was, an annoying and rude neighbour. However, after this exercise it has become much more apparent that people are far more intricate than I originally thought.
Originally posted to Black-Watch, March 27th, 2014