The Voyeur Next Door(6)

By: Airicka Phoenix


His gaze roamed along my frame, taking in everything from the chipped, purple nail polish on my toes to the messy knot that was my hair bun. I wasn’t sure which of that irritated him more, because his frown never shifted. He seemed to disapprove of all of me.

“Look,” I said, struggling to keep my calm when all I wanted to do was throat punch the guy for making me feel about two inches tall with just a look. “I get it. You think a woman doesn’t belong in a garage.”

“You’re right,” he said evenly. “That’s exactly what I think.”

It took me a full second to peel my jaw off the floor.

“That is the most sexist thing I have ever—”

“Do you know what women are, Ali? A liability,” he went on, ignoring my irate sputtering. “They come into a place and destroy it with the two ton bag of drama they heave around. I don’t like drama. And I don’t like trouble, which is exactly what you are.”

Any other time, any other person and I would have taken that as a compliment. As it were, his condescending bullshit pissed me off.

“And how am I trouble?” I bite out with all the composure I could scrounge up. “Is it the glasses, because I can vouch for their character?” His eyes narrowed, but I didn’t give a shit. “You know, this is why women don’t feel comfortable bringing their cars in to get checked, because of assholes like you who treat them like they’re braindead and unworthy of a fair exchange. You think just because we’re women and may not know as much about vehicles as men that we’re somehow less superior to you. Well, you know what, Jack, you can keep your fucking job. I wouldn’t work for you, with you, near you if you paid me in gold bricks.”

Whirling on my heels, I left.

I walked out of the garage without running into Earl. I briefly wondered if I should find him and thank him for the generous offer that I needed to decline, but thought better of it. I needed to get away from that asshole before I did something I might not regret later.

My apartment was a two block walk from the garage, tucked behind a towering wall of spruce trees. It sat nestled on a slight incline surrounded by Victorian homes and other smaller apartments. Mine was one of the older structures. The red brick was faded and chipped in places and the windows were the enormous panes used in lofts, but the rent was cheap and I liked the view.

The building itself had originally been two separate structures with six stories each. At some point, someone had connected the pair by a wall on either end, leaving a narrow gap in between that opened into a courtyard that was never used because realistically, it was a squished alley someone spruced up with flowerboxes. I could easily leap from my balcony into the apartment across the way … if I was Cat Woman, or a burglar. As it were, I was neither and had no desire to leap into an empty apartment. But the thing I did like to do was occasionally stand by the terrace doors and watch the lives of the people in the other building. As a person who lived on the sixth floor, dead center, I had the perfect angle to see most of what was going on in the other suites. Call me crazy, or a pervert, but most people in my position would do the same, especially since there was nowhere else to look, except to maybe count the bricks on the building. My neighbors were much more interesting.

I have always liked watching. I like seeing how people interact and behave alone and in groups. I like wondering what they’re talking about and what they’re thinking. As a child, I was the lone kid on the playground, the one that said nothing, but stared at the others as they ran and played. I was okay with that. I never cared that I wasn’t picked for teams, or asked to play skip rope. While I wasn’t some creepy shut in that liked collecting strands of my classmate’s hairs to make dolls, I didn’t go out of my way to make friends either. I still don’t. Friends are great, except I never know what to do with them. I see other people and it all seems so natural. They laugh and talk and make plans to talk and laugh some more at a later date. I would probably throw a fry at them and hope they were distracted enough not to notice me running away.

So I stayed home. When I did have to interact, I did so cautiously and tried not to make any sudden movements. Occasionally, I could even have full on conversations with people without anyone getting hurt. But I liked my solitary life. I cherished it even.

My apartment was designed by someone with no concept of measurements. Everything was done in extremes. The living room was barely big enough for a sofa, while the only bedroom was enormous. The kitchen was small, but the single bathroom could fit an entire Russian circus. The closet in the hall could have doubled as a second bedroom if it hadn’t been so narrow, while the pantry in the kitchen could barely hold a stack of towels. I was only thankful no one ever came to visit me or it would have been hard to explain why my bedroom was in the living room and why my living room was in my bedroom, or why all my food was in the closet down the hall near the bathroom and my towels were in my kitchen. It all worked fine for me, but I knew it wasn’t normal.