When you move into a new building in New York, you quickly find out whether or not your neighbours are the Community Type or the Let’s Pretend None of Us Ever Experienced the Indignity of Living Here Type. In our old building, people definitely fell into the latter category, actively avoiding one another in the hallways and communicating only via passive aggressive Post-It notes on the building door (“If you leave this off the latch, don’t be surprised when your parcels get stolen!”) The most contact we had with the inhabitants of that place was when the software engineer from 5B poked his head out of a window and told us to “keep it down” when we were exercising on the roof in the morning, or when the woman in the flat above had her nightly screaming matches with her on-again, off-again boyfriend (and why Steve could never just listen is a question that will haunt me till the end of my days).
Imagine our surprise, then, when we turned up at our new building and were ambushed in the basement gym by an enthusiastic man who’d been jogging on the treadmill. As we turned to leave after some weight training, he hit the stop button and ran over to introduce himself. “I’m Will and I’m in the apartment by the library,” he explained, “and technically I’ve lived in this building the longest. Previous to me, the only living things in the area of my unit were raccoons!”
Days later, as I passed by the laundry room, Will appeared with a group of other masked members of the building. “Hi, Holly!” he called out to me, before introducing each friend by their name and then the number of their apartment. I’m always impressed by people’s abilities to recognise others while we’re all masked up – I once mistook a different tall white man in the bagel shop for my own partner – and Will’s confidence in doing so felt particularly noteworthy. As I inched my laundry basket onto the other arm, he told me to join the building’s Facebook group. Later, before I’d even had time to tell E about the meeting, he bumped into Will in the hallway, who told him: “Holly’s in the group now, so she can keep you up-to-date.”
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