The Psychopath Down Below
Below me dwells a subterranean volcano. I once met him - I don't
usually ever actually see him.
I can't imagine how it is physically possible to slam every door,
every cabinet, in quite the way I experience it from above. I feel
every movement of this volatile human being. He walks slamming his
footsteps into the floor. I feel his every entrance and exit. The
front door slams - the apartment walls and floors shudder. His patio
door slides and bangs against the stops. I vicariously experience
every bathroom stop, each fresh exploration of every cabinet, as
if a herd of buffalo had come to announce a visit.
And although this is the way the man behaves normally, broadcasting
his physical presence with every movement of his being, he reacts
to signs of life on the planet with even more exaggerated agression.
For example, if play my guitar - softly - or play a record, or flush,
or open my patio door, I can feel a response to these signs of extra-apartmental
life - of life outside of his noisy womb. The door slams increase
in intensity. I can feel them shuddering the floor. The poor beast
appears to be annoyed that others make sound in the course of everyday
living. Somehow, inadvertantly, I am on his sonic turf.
He's an aural control freak.
Once late at night his slamming woke me up out of a deep sleep.
It was nearly midnight. The door slamming continued and continued
until it became obvious this man was in an unusually extreme state
of agitation. I felt obliged to leap out of my bed and begin leaping
up and down upon the floor! I heard the outside door slam below,
and loud heavy footsteps coming up the heavy wooden stair. He began
pounding on my door, and I opened it suddenly.
He was a muscle man, young and black, very handsome. He wasn't
very tall, but obviously had been working hard at body-building.
He seemed startled that anyone would dare face him. I asked why
the hell he was beating on my door. He asked if I was the one jumping
up and down on the floor, and I said, "Yeah, so why not? You
think you're the only one who can make the whole apartment rock
with your noisy door slamming?" He took a step back, with a
shocked look on his face. "It isn't me!" he protested.
"Well," I said, "When I find out who it is making
all the slamming noise around here, I'll call the police."
He said he wanted to find out who it is also, immediately spun on
his heels, and left. I breathed a sigh of relief that my face was
It was quiet on the planet for several months after my late-night
encounter with the psychopath down below. He's pretty much back
to his usual level of slamming now. It's amazing what we can become
accustomed to in our daily life, living as strangers in suburbia.
But what used to annoy me now seems like signs of life, the life
of a young man who deals with the physical world with aggresion,
but isn't too nasty face-to-face. At least he's alive and making
his own peculiar mark on the world. It's his sound of life.
The Psychopath Down Below by David Pickens 1998
I no longer live in an apartment. It gets awfully quite sometimes
around here. Then I play my drums and make my own sounds of life.
No neighbors can hear them unfortunately, thanks to plaster and
insulation, I suppose.