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How I started kiling my neighbours on a February afternoon

by Cristina Nemerovschi [Romania]
translated from Romanian by Philippa Lawrence & Ioana Vilcu [MTTLC student]
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Today I threw away my address book, TV, and mobile phone. I erased all my online contacts and cut the Internet cable. I found an old mobile which still contained the phone numbers of some former university colleagues in the back of a drawer and stamped on it with my heavy boots then threw it out of the window.

Exhausted I lit a cigarette and watched the smoke curl towards the ceiling like I was hypnotized. My studio flat suddenly seemed empty, though I hadn’t chased these acquaintances away physically but from my mind or some such. I had a powerful feeling of release, like in a childhood nightmare when your parents are going to a parent-teacher meeting at your school which is bound to result in your getting beaten black and blue then, a few hours before it’s due to start, the teacher has a heart attack. Or the school catches fire. Or the the car wouldn’t start and they forget about you. I lit another cigarette and opened a bottle of wine.

I got drunk alone and for the first time in the last few months wasn’t bored. I wasn’t even annoyed by the tones of some high-pitched, insistent, quarrelsome voices nor did I take part in absurd conversations which always ended in bickering or even fights. I stared blankly in to the distance and was happy.

Then I decided to erase all the traces other people had left in my life. I collected every book with a dedication in it and ripped out those pages, even the ones from my mum, and threw them out of the window. In hidden corners of the flat I discovered magazines, scrapbooks, and all kinds of sick-making things like Christmas and New Year’s cards. I gathered those I most feared because they proved I had allowed myself to have people around me, had bathed in the stinking water of casual socialization, and set fire to them in the bath, throwing out the rest. I lit a cigarette and smoked till it was ashes on the floor.

Feeling even more liberated, I opened another bottle of wine, and mused that the ideal course of action would be to expunge all the memories of people I still had. I wanted to kill myself but changed my mind and opened a third bottle. I’d read somewhere that if you managed to detach yourself from all the shit around you, physical manifestations would quickly follow. I would grow antennae or some shit so I’d be able to hear the mosquitoes preparing to bite a fat lady in the next tower block

Then I have the great idea of killing all my neighbours. The mere thought that people live so close to the burrow where I’ve decided to hibernate forever, waiting for my antennae to grow; that someone else is flushing their loo at the same time as me makes my hair stand on end. I grab a backpack and throw in a hatchet, a hammer and two kitchen knives and got out on to the landing.

I ring the doorbell of the old hag living in the flat opposite. She opens the door on the safety chain and her toothless face, hair covered by a woolly hat, peers through the crack. She has probably fallen asleep watching the Happy Hour, the new version of the 5 o’Clock News. My backpack is open and I’m wondering if this would be the right time to take out my hammer and hit her on the head with it – or maybe a knife would suit her better? If I didn’t know she was senile I’d ask her to pick the weapon. That’s how it should work, everyone able to choose how they want to die…Well, with which knife they want to be stabbed! I realise that I don’t have a good angle – she could easily pull her head back and ‘Goodbye crime!’ I should get inside her flat, it’ll be safer that way.

I ask her if I can borrow some cooking oil, and she mumbles something and closes the door. To hell with it! I should have hit her on the head with the hammer while I had the chance! Now she’s barricaded herself inside her flat. I wait for a couple of minutes, and realise there’s no point ringing her doorbell again as the hag must have taken precautionary measures, so I cross the landing to my door, silently fuming. I’ll postpone killing her till later – maybe tomorrow. So I start planning which neighbour to kill first. In fact there is more than one – a couple of pensioners with two dogs and three cats. I might adopt a cat when it’s all over. They’ll probably be upset being orphaned, especially as they’re no longer kittens. As I reach for my door handle the old hag appears in her doorway.

She tells me she was having trouble with her safety chain, and asks me inside saying she has plenty of oil. Enthusiastically I go in to the hag’s flat and find the Happy Hour blaring away on her TV, reporting the story of the emo student who has hacked her mother to pieces. Everything fits perfectly! That’s how all our existential dilemmas get solved; everything is simpler than we imagine. After twenty minutes I leave her flat, and go back in to my own, change my T-shirt, wipe an annoying red stain from my jeans, wash my hands, and go downstairs and out to buy a bottle of wine – I hope the 24 hour shop is still open.

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4 Comments

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