The persistent banging from the apartment next-door is bothering me. I call the office.
“I think my neighbour’s in trouble.”
“And,” the super says.
“What do you mean, and?” I snap.
I stop to think, but the better part of my religious upbringing pushes to be heard. “Please,” I implore. “Maybe he’s hurt.”
“Then you’re coming with me. I’ll need a witness.”
We listen outside before opening the door. “Is everything alright?” the super shouts.
I look in. There are boxes dumped all over his living room floor and the walls are covered with pictures. That explains the incessant tapping of a hammer at all hours of the night.
A pained whimper leads us to the bathroom.
Farik lies naked on the floor, handcuffed to the bathtub support bar. Seeing us, he pulls his legs up and pleads for help with pained eyes.
“Get him a blanket,” the super says. “I’ll call 911.”
The slamming apartment door forces my eyes away from his bloody face. There are no towels.
I push open his partially closed bedroom door and pinch my nose to block out the overpowering smell of sex. Strewn across a rubber-sheeted mattress are used condoms, hand towels, lubricant, and three needles on the edge of an overflowing ashtray on the nightstand.
“What the fuck ya doin in there?”
His accusing tone dissolves any compassion. I use my fingers like tongs and pick up a soiled sheet, step back into the bathroom and drop it on him, averting my eyes, as he fumbles and squirms to cover himself.
“They beat me,” he whimpers.
My fists unclench and I bend down to help him.
“They were my friends.”
My head recoils. “You have sex with your friends?”
“Only one. I met the other guy on the net.” He says it like, ‘Everybody’s doing it’. “We were just having fun.”
I step back.
“They’re gonna come back if I tell the cops. I’m gonna have to move.”
I look at him in disbelief. “Why?” I shout. “Don’t you feel safe?” I stand over top of him. “Now you know how we feel.” I turn to leave.
“Don’t leave me.”
Without thinking, I kick his anklebone and then shove my fist in his face. “This entire building’s been living in fear ever since you moved here. You don’t deserve any pity or help. You play your music too loud and laugh when asked to turn it down. You tell me it’s not you who’s hammering at all hours of the night and your walls look like an art gallery vomited out their reject pieces.” I leaned into his face. “You sell drugs. Your customers smoke, eat and drink in the halls leaving their garbage. You whine that it’s not your fault. Nothing’s your fault, is it? I slap his face.
“I’m back and I brought the cops.”
Farik looks at the blood on my hand and smiles.