- Auriane de Rudder
She's my Cherry Pie
You know, over the years I have had what I'd consider more experience with shitty neighbors than most people.
Growing up, the boys who lived next door to me used to steal my keys and throw rocks at me after school. In my first apartment in Baltimore, there were two very sour lesbians living next door who would throw FITS if I set off fireworks at 5 am, or threw some bottles at an available brick wall to blow off steam. (Okay, maybe they weren't the problem, exactly.) In Nashville I lived across the street from two crack dealers, one of which just dropped the fuck dead in her yard one morning. I remember one particularly cracked out night, before her demise, when she chased her husband out of the house screaming, "Don't you come back, you Santa Claus Motherfucker!" I got a kick out of that. There was the Midtown stoner, Mike, would used to smoke so much weed at 4 am that my apartment upstairs would bake, and I'd wake up at 5 am HOW HIGH, not nearly as happy as you'd think I'd be. And now, I live across the way from a daycare center run by a strange passive aggressive gay man who shout-sings songs about "sharing," into my windows each morning. Man, fuuuuck that guy.
So I've had some shitty neighbors. I've been a shitty neighbor. But there is one shitty neighbor who stands out. His name was Brian. And he had an ugly, fat ass with a sense of entitlement to match. Ugh, Brian. It makes my skin crawl to think of him!
At the time, I was living in a historical building in the Mount Vernon neighborhood in Baltimore. When I say historic, I mean it. Classified as the First-Ever Elevator building in America, the Severn was old and lovely. Granted that first-ever elevator, as well as some very, ahem, antique, fixtures were part of its' charm. So things broke a lot, but all in all the Severn was beautiful.
That's the Severn back in the day.
The building, being old, charming and cheap, housed two types of tenants. First, there were the elderly people who had been living in the Severn for upwards of 50 years. They immediately earned my respect, as they had seen the neighborhood change, and rightfully stuck with it through all its' ups and downs. Secondly, since the neighborhood had indeed changed, and was close to three local colleges, students moved in. Most of these students were attending MICA, an expensive arts school just down the street. Most of these kids were great. Starving artists, living on Ramen and carrying home over-sized canvasses to hang in the halls. We would have late night drinking sessions on the roof, or in one another's tiny, pretty spaces, and talk about our respective projects. I loved my building, and its' tenants. I even took to baking pies for our elderly neighbors, and saving any leftover dinner scraps for the artists in the building. It was like one big, weird family.
That's the Severn when I lived in it. Pretty historically in-tact, no?
But then? Then there was Brian. Brian was not a starving anything, judging by that big fat ass. Ugh, and to make things worse he always, LIKE ALWAYS, wore corduroy pants. Even in the summer. Swish swish swish, here comes fat ass Brian to ruin everyone's day. Brian wasn't an artist or an old man. Brian was an aspiring politician, pursuing his grad degree in Charles Village, and should have moved there instead. I have always found Charles Village grad students to be the worst, so he would have fit right in. What's a couple of blocks, Brian? Why ruin Mount Vernon?
See? That's Charles Village. People have bad pants there all the time. Brian would've have been better off there.
Ugh, Brian. Even thinking of him now makes me want to fight someone. What exactly makes him so terrible, you ask? Because it can't just be his ass and bad pants right? Right.
Let me explain something that may seem a little off-track, but bear with me, yeah?
At the time, in Baltimore City, there was NO RECYCLING. Okay? None. Now this is where it gets a little weird. Despite having no recycling whatsoever, the city, in an effort to get us ready for the possibility of a recycling program, had started a sorting initiative. But nothing sorted was actually recycled. So, basically, people would separate their trash, put it in separate trash bins provided by the city, and all of the waste--no matter what bin you put it in-- would end up in the same dump anyway. It was an exercise in futility, an idiots' dance.
So when Brian moved in, the first thing he instituted in our building was a recycling club. Because Brian was an exercise in futility, himself. Brian was a fucking moron. And yes, he even called it a recycling "club." Yuck. Anyway, Brian would swish-swish-swish through the halls, knocking on doors, aggressively explaining to the elderly and student residents alike that if they didn't join, they were actively killing Mother Earth. He was not polite. He was not progressive. He had not done his research. In fact, most of the time, he was being downright rude to people for no real reason. Everyone else in the building seemed to understand that Baltimore didn't have a recycling program. Everyone but Brian. I tried my best to avoid the situation entirely. I would sneak away in the hallways to deliver yet another pie to Mrs. Johnston, or to Mr. Henry, while Brian would knock on doors, scolding those who didn't want to "recycle." It was pretty clear that I was avoiding him, but I had my pies to hide behind, and so he left me alone. Well, almost.
It was about this time that we started having problems with that famous First-Ever-Elevator in America. The problem being, mainly, that it just didn't work. The Severn was 11 stories high, and so residents living toward the top were rightfully frustrated with the lack of elevator service. To make matters worse, the stairs in the Severn were separated by hallways, meaning you had to go up one flight of stairs, and then walk through that level's hallway before getting to the next flight of stairs. This made walking up several flights feel like several more, so those on the 9th, 10th, or 11th floor had an especially tough task at hand.
Our maintenance team got to work on the elevator right away, but every few days it would again shut down, inevitably in the middle of the night. You couldn't get any maintenance done at 3 a.m. unless you had weed to trade with the maintenance man. We were all broke, and our weed was ours alone. So instead of calling for help, we would pry the metal doors open, and wedge ourselves out in between floors. Once we had climbed to an actual hallway, and squeezed our way out of the elevator shaft, we then had to walk up however many more floors necessary to get home after that. I'll admit. It was pretty bad. People were pissed.
Another seemingly mundane but crucial detail here is that the doors adjoining each staircase to each residential hallway SLAMMED SO HARD. So if you didn't stop and slowly shut each door as you were making this lengthy trek to your apartment, you'd inevitably wake up everyone on each floor you passed through. It sucked. It sucked at 7 a.m. when people went to work, and it sucked at 3 a.m. when people came home drunk. It sucked at noon, when the abrupt slam would make you drop your lunch on your kitchen floor. It sucked at dinner time when the "BANG!" would, let's say, collapse the meringue your latest pie for Mr. Henry. So we all hated it. But maintenance was working on it, and we still lived in arguably the prettiest, most affordable building in the neighborhood. I taped some insulating foam to the edge of the hallway door on my floor, cutting the slamming noise in half, and figured the issues would resolve themselves soon enough.
This is just a picture of Mount Vernon. Ain't she cuuuute?
It wasn't a week of this nonsense before some rather lewd graffiti showed up, scratched with a key into the original brass button panel of that damn elevator. Fuck's and Cunt's littered the previously gorgeous, albeit broken, piece of history. I was livid. I mean, sure I hated the fucking elevator, but this building was so beautiful! How dare some drunken cunt scratch it up! What good did that accomplish!? For Chrissakes, think of the elderly people! Some of them had been living here for 50 years! Do they deserve this kind of destruction to their homes? Aw hell no! I couldn't believe how mad I was. I laid in bed that night, angry, listening to the hallway door shut softly thanks to my foam-application job. Eventually I drifted off. When...
"SLAM!" This was an intentionally loud slamming of my hallway door. WTF fresh hell was this? I sat up in bed and listened. I heard a man's drunken voice, shouting to god know's who in my hallway. I stomped toward my front door, wondering what asshole would pull this shit, and sure enough, when I opened the door, there was Brian. Drunk. In corduroy. Brian was ranting to his less unfortunate looking roommate about the elevator being "a fucking cunt piece of shit." This was precisely what had been scratched into the elevator with a goddamn key.
"Um, excuse me," I surveyed the hallway. Brian had ripped my foam insulation down and then slammed the door so hard that the metal support beam was now hanging off to the side.
This destructive mothafuckah....
"You wanna tell me what the fuck your problem is?" I didn't need to ask about specifics. I knew he had fucked up the elevator with his shit-chicken-scratch graffiti. I just knew. I also clearly knew he had broken the door, seeing as it was in pieces in front of us.
Brian turned to me with wild, drunken eyes. His blonde (blech!) hair was sweaty and toussled. He looked crazy. He bounded toward me, his fat ass adding to his unusually heavy footsteps, no doubt.
"YOU!" he hissed, "YOUUUU DONNNN'T RESSSSSYCLE!" He was like a fat drunken snake. Ssssssing his nonssssense at me.
"Jesus fucking Christ," I said back, rolling my eyes.
"Take this fucking pig to bed," I said to Brian's roommate.
Brian was still standing uncomfortably close to me, and got right back in my face and yelled,
"Go bake another pie, BITCH!"
I stepped back and slammed my door in his face. Maybe I would bake a pie, bitch. I mean, it's not like I was going right back to bed after that confrontation. I was fired up! I was mad as hell! So I fired up my oven, and got to work.
Now. I make two kinds of pies, normally. One, is an easy-to-bake kinda thing. A quick Key lime, in a pre-bought crust. Tasty but not fancy. The second, is a homemade crust, with store bought filling. Look, I'm not a pastry chef. Plus, I give my pies away, so people should enjoy whatever they get. But for Brian? For Brian I decided to stretch a little, flex my creativity a bit. For Brian, I decided to make a "special" pie.
Brian's pie would be made with LOVE. Or something like it.
I pressed the hand made crust into the pan, and cut lovely little lattice pieces for the inevitable country-cooking style top of my creation. After prepping the crust in the oven, I added my filling. I smoothed chunks of yummy cherry filling--from a can, but yummy nonetheless--into the pie pan. Using my spatula, I then pressed one dry, clean, unused Tampax tampon into the deep red filling. I placed the lattice on top, sealing them with my fork, and popped 'er in the oven. One "special," cherry pie, coming up. Bitch.
When the pie had fully cooled, I walked to the elevator, and pressed the call button.
Whattayaknow? It was working just fine for me. Hmph.
I rode up to floor 11, pie in hand. It was lovely, really. Maybe some of my best work?
I glanced at that nasty graffiti as I stepped off the elevator and walked to Brian's door.
Knock. Knock. Knock. The door opened slowly. It was Brian's roommate.
"Heyyyy," I said.
"Um, hello." He replied.
"Look, I feel so badly about last night. It's like, this whole elevator thing is really wearing on people, you know?" I held on to the pie.
"Yeah, I know. Look, about Brian--"
"No, no, don't worry about Brian. Look, I get it. I just...well you know me. I like making pies. And I figured, what better way to say I'm sorry to you guys, you know?" I extended my arms, presenting the pie.
He took it. And smiled, thanking me.
"Do me a favor, though," I said, "Just wait 'til Brian gets home from work. I want him to get a piece of the apology, you know?"
Brian's roommate nodded, closing his front door.
I got back on the elevator and smiled.
Now, I don't know if those guys found the cherry-pie-filling slathered tampon on their first bite of pie, or on their last, but I do know that neither of them bothered me ever again.
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