We did not stay in the apartment in the house for very long. Soon, a townhouse where my mother wanted to live became available and we moved into it. It was a clean, two bedroom unit that was small but was so well designed that you could have privacy and space all at the same time. We had the coveted end unit, which is preferred because you only get noise from one side. The neighbours were all close and there was no way to not know what was going on.
There were several children there my age and I could once again walk to school, which I didn’t have to do for very long because as soon as I turned sixteen I started to drive. While still fifteen, I bought myself a $75.00 car and did all of the work necessary to get it road worthy and functioning. It did not have a radio so I wedged a transistor radio in between the dash and the car frame on the driver’s side. Also, it did not have a gas gauge or an odometer, so I had to carry a gas can in the trunk at all times. This gave the car that distinctive gasoline smell, but I didn’t care. It was a 1970 Ford Capri and I loved that car.
I managed to keep the linkage for the manual transmission functioning by having a stash of paperclips in the glove box. When one broke, or rusted and I could no longer put the car into gear, I would climb under and put in a new paper clip—problem solved.
Two doors down there was a young couple. I don’t know the details of what transpired between them but the woman moved out. I remember the husband completely disintegrating with bouts of being drunk and staggering home. He owned one of those distinctive cars that were obvious because they were so peculiar looking, a pacer I believe. Parking for the cars was supposed to be up the one side of the complex, but there was pavement behind the units and he had driven his pacer up to the space behind his place. He left his car on an angle and the safety lights were flashing. I saw this car sit like this for days. Eventually, the batteries died and the lights stopped flashing, but he never came out to move the car or shut the flashers off. I never saw him again.
The next move was to a grand old house in an established neighbourhood within walking distance of the hospital and the YMCA. The house used to be a single family dwelling, but a previous owner had made two apartments out of the left side of the house and the main part included four bedrooms upstairs, a living room and kitchen on the main floor and added a two story addition that included a huge family room that had patio doors opening onto a large backyard with an in ground pool and an upstairs space that opened onto a second floor patio. It was a gorgeous place with mature trees that housed squirrels, chipmunks and a multitude of birds and other mammals. I have no good memories of this house.
The basement reflected the age of the house and was always dark and damp. I used the basement to shower because there was no shower in the bathroom upstairs. One day when I went into the basement there was a beam of light shinning from one of the apartments. I went over to find that a piece of masking tape had dried up and had curled back exposing a perfectly drilled hole in the wall. The wall between the basement apartment and the main part of the house was a single piece of plywood.
I bent down to peer through the hole and my stomach clenched. It was a perfect view across the bathtub and into the washroom of the other apartment. On a day that I was in the downstairs apartment I had a look from the other side. The hole had been drilled in the black centre of a flower that was part of the pattern of the wallpaper in the bathroom. I later met a woman that had lived down there before my mother owned the place and she said that one of the reasons that she moved out was that the landlord creeped her out. I did not tell her about the hole.
Keep Reading: With Friends Like These…