I used to watch from the window as the kids teased him. I would hear him leaving quietly in the morning to go and buy a newspaper, early so that he would avoid everyone. You heard everything in these flats. Every bang, every chair moving along the floor. Even the arguments. Especially the arguments. The only noise I heard from him though was the sound of his door being closed and opened.
One day I was standing waiting for the lift. It’s only three floors up but I am too old to walk up the stairs these days. He passed me by. I wanted to call out to him, but I was lost for words. I didn’t know him yet I felt I knew him intimately. I wanted to ask him if he was okay, maybe if he wanted to pop in for a cup of tea. It was too late though, he had already started to walk up the stairs.
I remember when he arrived. There was a man with him, I assumed it was his brother. They looked alike, well I thought so at the time anyway. They moved stuff in and then the other man went off and I never saw him again. That was two years ago. I would try to say hello to him when I saw him walking along the landings, I only ever received an awkward smile in reply.
That’s how it is here though. People living on top of each other. We hear everything each other is doing through the paper thin walls. We see the arguments on the landings. There is no privacy. Yet none of us know each other. We don’t know names, we don’t know where we have all come from, how we’ve ended up in this place. People come and go all the time. The council moving people in as soon as someone has moved out.
I came here when they first built these blocks in the late 60’s. Back then when everything was new it was a lovely place to live. We all had running hot water, our own central heating. People were happy to live here. Then it changed. Different people moved in. People became suspicious of each other. The community completely disappeared. I loved my little flat though, so I never moved out.
I lived on my own but I wasn’t lonely. My family lived near by. Not on this estate but near enough it was easy to go and visit. This man appeared to have no one. The only time he had company was the first time I saw him. There were never any knocks on his door. He never came home with anyone. He didn’t even go out on a Friday night. I felt sorry for him. Living here is lonely, I am old but still have people I can turn to.
Every time I saw him I thought I could see a sadness in his eyes. Like he had been through some kind of ordeal. When he did go out during the day the children would shout at him. Call him names, throw things. He never once reacted, I don’t think he even acknowledged them. Just carried on walking with his head down. I hate to see people like that, frightened, alone.
Then one day he was gone. There was no door closing in the morning. I couldn’t see him walking past the playground. I wondered about all his stuff, he must have clothes and what about those tables they moved in? The council came one morning and took all his stuff away. Three days later and there was a new family living there. All these people that come and go yet I still worried about someone I had never spoken to.
One morning while I was in the supermarket a picture on front of the local newspaper caught my eye. I never read the newspapers. All full of rubbish but this picture was him. I picked it up and my heart raced as I took out my glasses. It was him, definitely him. The paper said he had killed someone. An old lady apparently, she used to see him pass her flat every day and she invited him in for tea because she had a kind heart and felt sorry for him.