I’ve lived in the same building for over three years — I know who people are, generally, but I haven’t formed any sort of friendship with any of them. The most neighborly thing I’ve done was to knock on the doors of adjacent apartments during the Bed Bug Fiasco of February ’09 to warn them of potential nastiness (and it seems that the bugs were eradicated in my apartment and never moved, thank goodness).
So that was how I met Misun and John, who have lived here a long time, too. One day I was outside reading Epileptic, a graphic novel and part of my 52 books project, and Misun asked me what I was reading and mentioned that her husband is a comic artist. Today she left me one of his comic books, and it’s lovely. Here’s a guy who lives below me and knows about Schnookie the dog, too (whose name I had wrong), and who I’ve never really talked to… like everyone else in my building who I’ve never really talked to.
It’s a little depressing. As I was reading the comic book, I was constructing a blog post in my head about how it’s a city-vs.-small-town thing, that in small towns everyone is familiar, and it’s never this hard to connect with people. But then one of the comics was about taking a trip to Trinidad (the town, not the country) to visit with an artist, finding his home empty. They asked a passerby if she knew the artist, and she had, but he had died a few years earlier. John mentions the inside of the artist’s house, and she says, “Oh — I didn’t know that… I never went inside their house…” Which is really just to say that intimacy (even more-than-surface neighborliness), in the city and in the small town, is hard-won.