Many times you live next door to someone for years and you know nothing about them; when you meet in the lift you say good morning or good evening; most rarely you exchange a few trivialities about the weather, as the lift goes up or down; and little else. Everyone goes on with their lives and that’s how it should be.
However, from time to time, something happens that makes you discover your neighbours’ dark secrets.
The other day as I came home, I could see my son Pedro wanted to tell me a story. He had a naughty smile on his face. When I looked at him enquiringly, he told me.
“Mom, do you know our next-door neighbour, the one who has long black hair that he wears on a ponytail?” I nodded. He’s not really one of the neighbours I know best, even if we live so close to each other. He’s quite reserved and barely utters a greeting when we meet on the elevator lobby, so I don’t find him particularly nice. Not like the lady who lived on the other side of our floor, who was a darling, always with a cigarette on her fingers, waiting to get outside to light it; unfortunately, she passed away last year, of lung cancer. Or a gentleman who always greets me enthusiastically or even neighbours from other floors whom I meet in the parking, asking about each other’s children.
“What about him?” – I wondered.
“Well, I was at the ground floor waiting for the lift when I was startled to see a beautiful young woman arrive.”
I smiled “Wow! A new neighbour? “
“No! Wait, Mom! She was… How can I say… A bit too beautiful, too elegant, too made up, too perfect. She was in very high heels and had a raincoat, and I could smell an intense perfume.”
“Oh, oh”, I exclaimed, understanding what he was trying to say, “Go on”.
“I must say I was surprised. It seemed as if she didn’t really belong here. She looked… Artificial, but Mom, she was truly stunning! When the lift arrived I let her in, as you have taught us, to be chivalrous to ladies”, he added with a smile “There was no one else in the lift and I pressed the button to our floor, while she did nothing; when we reached our floor again I held the door to let her pass, but she gestured she was not coming out so I came out myself, slightly surprised. As I passed our neighbour’s door it was open, and I saw him peeping out as if he were looking for someone… When he saw me, he looked embarrassed and immediately closed the door”.
I listened, waiting for what would follow.
“You know me, Mom, I’m not one to meddle in other people’s affairs, but there was something in this situation that stirred my curiosity. Something was wrong: the stunning woman in high heels and heavy make-up; the fact that she would not come out on the same floor as I; our neighbour clearly expecting someone that did not arrive… So, as I came in and closed the door, I stayed there looking through the peeping hole to see what was happening next. And I was not disappointed, as barely two minutes after I heard the elevator door opening and there she was, her heels making a metallic noise on the marble floor, and our neighbour’s door again opening while he looked around to check if there was anyone in sight and then he was ushering her in and closing the door…”
“My God, I said, she was a call girl…”
“Definitely, Mom! Not only she was not normally dressed, if you know what I mean… She was too dressed up, too perfect as well… And she trying to be inconspicuous, she clearly did not want me to see she was going to that particular apartment”, and then, with a serious face “of course she wouldn’t, Mom, he has a wife who lives here with him, she must be away. He is cheating on her with a call girl!”
Now I know these boys of mine and their friends have very strong principles regarding love, relationships and betrayal, and I’ve tried to explain that sometimes life is not just black and white, and it may happen that you are with someone and fall in love with someone else… But this is definitely not the same thing. It’s pure cheating and lack of respect. No matter how hard he – and the girl – tried to keep the whole thing a secret, the fact is, now we, the next-door neighbours, know this intimate detail about his – and his wife’s – life. Every time we cross this couple again, we’ll know her for a wronged woman and him for a cheater. Not that his wife will ever discover – or will she? – what happens in her absence; still, it’s very sad.
We sat there, in silence, sharing the same disgust as we thought of the woman who would arrive on the following day, or the next, happy to be home, without having the faintest idea that her husband had been enjoying, most probably on her very bed, the attentions, and service, of a stunning call girl. Or maybe, just maybe, there will still be a faint trace of her perfume in the bedroom, and the wife will find it somewhat odd, but pay no real attention and open the window to make it fade away.
But somehow, it won’t, not entirely, because the people who live next door know that her husband has brought a call girl into her home.