At least tonight I will sleep. I have just finished reading and I decide to look out of the window and see what my beloved neighbors are doing before getting into bed. Of late, it has become impossible to sleep since I moved to this place. I am not a heavy sleeper and my new hood is not a heaven of silence. I had to move from my old place because my former landlord decided out of the blues to raise the rent which I could not afford since I do not have a source of income. Being a student and highly dependent on my parents, I have to make do with what they give me. I was unlucky to find a house in town; I prefer my former house even though it is quite a distance from town.
I already know the type of people my new neighbors are. I have lived here for only three weeks and I can assure you that I have never seen a bunch of ‘open’ people like these ones. They do not have any secrets and one man’s personal life is my personal life. This is their policy and I am rather enjoying it. Funny enough, I have not met my neighbors because during the day, I am in school. I forgot to tell you that I am a fourth year student in a university in town. Anyway, I have not met my neighbors on a one on one basis but I know a lot about them and I can tell who is who when I hear their voices. My house which is a one-roomed house is wooden and unfortunately, I have not been able to acquire a radio or television set. I listen to my neighbor’s radio who does not own a television set; but I can assure you I have more than enough entertainment from my neighbors. The hood’s gossip is really entertaining and makes you crave for more. The most informed person in the hood is Esther; we live in the same building. If you are wondering whether she visits me, no, I know she is called Esther because I have heard my immediate neighbor call her. She visits Sue; my next door neighbor…we share a wooden wall that is not soundproof. I hear everything that happens in that house; it’s as if I am in the same room with them. Believe me, privacy is a thing of the past in this wooden houses. I have never brought a girl home because I know that whatever we do in that house will be known by everyone; in fact I almost whisper when talking on my mobile phone. I am scared of sleep talking because it might be vulgar talk and they might think that I am talking to someone.
Anyway, back to Esther and Sue. They have great skills in story telling and are a reliable source of information. Gathering information is their job because they are housewives and have nothing better to do. The funny thing is that they say things about other women who love gossiping and they call them names. One is left to wonder the difference between these groups of women who love making other people’s business their business. From two women’s conversations, I have learnt that a man called Martin is cheating on his wife; a Carol somewhere has an abusive husband who beats her up every night and many more stories about people I do not know.
Sue is a member of her church choir and whenever she is moving around in her house she has to practice her singing skills. She sings soprano and I think she feels that she can do better. She sings all the voices in a choir and believe me, it is not music to my ears. I don’t love her choice of music that plays from her radio but it is better than her singing. Her two daughters are a source of entertainment on their own. They are up to date with the new hits and they remix their way through songs. I enjoy their singing because they are just too young to understand what they sing.
Sue’s husband on the other hand says little in that house. He is always around in the evenings. I do not know what he does for a living but I know that Esther always tells Sue that she is lucky to have such a man. Whenever the two women talk about men, Esther never forgets to warn her about ‘men hungry women’ out there. By the way as I had said earlier, it is not that I eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, it’s just that they find it necessary to share with interested and uninterested listeners and I happen to be in the uninterested group.
The gossip is not all that I enjoy in this hood. Directly opposite our building is a local pub. It is never short of music unless the power lighting company has cut short electricity supply in our area. The patrons of this pub enjoy fighting and disturbing women. Once, a lady hit a drunkard with her shopping basket and spilled its contents. The other drunkards and passersby laughed at her and attracted some street boys who helped themselves to the lady’s things despite her protests and cries for help. I should have ran and helped her but it served her right not to hit men who think she is beautiful and decide to show her how much they appreciate her beauty.
Did I tell you that my neighbors are also good actors? Well as I sit here looking down on the street, I hear one of Sue’s daughters call out to her mother to come and see Martin and his wife. I hear footsteps in their house and Sue is really excited. She wants to go outside and be near the action. I am really blessed to see the famous Martin and his wife. I know his face. I have seen him on several occasions around the neighborhood. Anyway, Martin’s wife is screaming and swearing at the top of her voice. I notice three small children pulling her away from Martin as they cry. I think they are her children. She pushes the children away and takes off her slipper and starts hitting Martin with it. He seems to be staggering and only defends himself by unsuccessfully trying to get hold of the slipper. One of the three children gives her mother a cane which she uses to beat up Martin. The onlookers laugh at this ‘husband beating drama’ and I am impressed by the little girl who has helped her mother beat the hell out of her husband. I see Sue running down the street and hugging Esther. They are glowing with joy and I know that they must critically analyze the domestic battle. Nobody dares to intervene but they cheer the couple on. Martin’s wife is now exhausted and she gets hold of her children. They go back to their house leaving martin behind. He has been bruised and the men start insulting him for embarrassing them. They did not understand how a woman can beat up a man and get way with it. Martin assures them that that is not the end because his wife must pay for embarrassing him. He blamed his poor act tonight on the alcohol. People start dispersing and I see Sue and Esther grinning and laughing. I am sure they will have a good night sleep because of such a delightful incident.
I know that I will have to get used to my new hood and try not to be friends with the gossiping neighbors; and not to be among their interested group of listeners. Maybe one day I will write a story about this amazing hood. For now I just need to concentrate on my studies and secure a good job so that I may look for a house somewhere less dramatic.