Bicycles

We did not start well with the neighbours.
When we moved in
We bought them a bottle of Prosecco
To try to make up for any inconvenience we might have caused-
Or at least that’s what we said on the card,
Really we meant:
‘Please like us, and be quiet at night so that we can sleep.’
But the gesture wasn’t reciprocated (as we’d hoped)
Or acknowledged (as we’d expected).
Instead, the offered hand hangs between us,
An embarassment to all parties.

*

The neighbours are both overweight,
He moreso than her.
She sometimes acknowledges us,
He never does, although once
When I was walking out of the front door
He prompted her to hold the door open for me
And another time,
When I was trying to work out where our fuse box was,
I knocked on their door,
And he answered…
He was shirtless and his huge naked torso
Sagged between us, utterly hairless.
He told me that theirs was above their door
And I said thanks and that I’d try there.

*

I thought at first that they were our age
But looking closer they are probably only
Twenty five or twenty six.
They have a daughter who is four or five
And a new baby.
Their old car, a small car, is
Filled up with rubbish,
Food packaging, mainly.
I can see how it happens-
‘Leave it, I’ll sort it tomorrow…’

They’ve got a new car, it’s much bigger
And it was clean for a while
But now it’s going the same way.
We were walking on the path once
And he reversed powerfully only inches
From our feet.
I am nearly sure he didn’t see us.

*

Our flats share a small hallway
Which is entered through a heavy fire door,
The door is self-closing.
When it slams shut it is loud and it makes
The plasterboard walls shudder.
Between them, they must go in and out
Fifteen or twenty times a day.
Mainly, I think, it’s her going outside to smoke.
She stands just outside the front door,
Under the shallow porch
And stares down at her mobile phone,
Smoking, seemingly without relish.
He comes back late, usually
Around eleven, often with the five year old.
I guess they spend the evenings at his mother’s house.

*

In our shared hallway are their bikes,
Both fairly new. They look unridden.
They don’t dominate the space
But they are impossible to ignore.
They haven’t moved during the two years we’ve lived here,
But last week we heard him pumping up the tires.
I imagine them riding in opposite directions
Until they’re thin and as far apart as possible.

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