Katherine moves into her first house, and decides that she ought to be friendly to the neighbours. But 'friendly' is sometimes a dangerous word.

United States


00:00:00Hi i'm catherine may and this is normal way So the idea behind this book cost is that wass bows i want him to move on from the electricity of every living things rich between my next book which is coming up twenty twenty which is a long time away
00:00:36And so i wanted to start a bit of a funny a project something a bit more like really andi i wanted to be able to carry on writing memoir but to write more and i suppose the theme of the podcast overall will be my attempts understanding normal So
00:00:56those of you who read my book well i've seen that i write about this process of passing So growing up this is a young girl with asperger's syndrome You learn very quickly that other people realize that you're not like them and that's how you learn your sense of
00:01:12identity exposed that you see other people's reaction to you and realize that you've behaved in a way that they didn't expect you don't really understand what that gap is on dh so this is really common with artistic girls very carefully unconsciously i tried to learn how to behave
00:01:30like normal people kind of copy them on all of which sounds rather tragic actually And it's quite funny really when you think about it because when you start trying to copy normal all you end up doing is absorbing all the wrong things because no one's really very normal
00:01:45and everyone's a bit strange and so i suppose if there's an overarching theme to this podcast and it will be called normal it is my attempts through life to assimilate normal and not just me getting it wrong but really how bloody weird everybody else's too So this is
00:02:07gonna be the first story it's called next door but one on dh it's about the time i first tried to make friends with my neighbors in my first house and they turned out to be quite what i expected so it's going next over one we bought our first
00:02:27house when i was still at university If that seems like a breathtaking extravagance then bear in mind that we moved into the seediest area of the kind of town that nobody wanted to live in We did the calculations are mortgage repayments will be cheaper than the rent we're
00:02:42currently paying and i could cover the deposit with my student loan they didn't seem to be any good reason not to do it there i waas a twenty year old owner of three tiny stories of terraced house on a dead end street with two compact bedrooms basement kitchen
00:02:59and a weird pink corner bath it was perfect and in my new role the chateau lane of this seizure state i was determined to take on a range of other adult behavior too be warm and friendly to my neighbors and not fall into the habits of scornful intolerance
00:03:16for which i was renowned i would do this properly the problem is that if you're naturally scornful intolerant being friendly feels like open season on your personal boundaries once you've overridden your absolute conviction that most people to be avoided it's very hard to know when it's reasonable to
00:03:35retreat back into your natural state of enemy i say that in a kind of foreshadowed defense of my behavior in the story that follows none of it was my thought but equally any sane person would have closed the holding down years before i did i suppose i was
00:03:51just trying to be neighborly we've been living on the terrace for a month when a couple moved in next door but one sarah was a nurse of middle eastern origin but to say that she was a lapse muslim would be like calling a building lapsed after a wrecking
00:04:07ball and hit it a short while after meeting her it became clear that she was carefully and systematically dismantling every value should been taught by her parents even where those values were entirely sensible and fundamental to the basic maintenance of human life her husband andrew was a welshman
00:04:25so pale skinny and cringing me nervous that i could only imagine he'd been borrowed from the set of a mr muscle commercial We first met when farah knocked on the door a mere few days after moving in and greeted me with the words high on farrah I notice
00:04:42you've got cable get any porn channels What do you say to an introduction like that I imagine so i said and decided that this was probably a ham fisted joke by someone shy of meeting the neighbors When h got home from work that night i told him what
00:04:59had happened and he pointed out that this is exactly the kind of misfiring joke that was my own special ity poor thing we said she's probably at home cringing but no she was back a couple of days later the blue tinged husband in tow this time and asking
00:05:15whether we have the internet and whether it was fast enough for paul It was nineteen ninety nine The real answer was no but that didn't stop the truly determined Instead i said i've absolutely no idea and narrow the angle of the door just enough to make my point
00:05:33clear this would have been enough of rebuttal for me to scuttle off home and never come out again but sarah just smiled and said well maybe we can try and find out together It wasn't seductive or even mildly flirtatious It was just posed as the kind of straightforward
00:05:50question that normal people asking normal situations hey neighbor we've barely met but let's engage in a sexually intimate act together She wasn't even asking you interested My concern was just assumed I'd like to say that our contact ended there that i've been sufficiently icy to make my disinterest
00:06:10clear The second time round wrong again farah skipped happily away from my doorstep is if i turn down nothing more socially sensitive than a cup of tea I lay in bed with a chick that night and we repeated the phrase over and over again with increasing incredulity Maybe
00:06:28we can watch it together Oh god we said is this what you have to do here A swinger endlessly proposition disinterested couples until you find the one in a thousand whose interest in the same bizarre stuff that you are this was before tinder or craigslist or closed facebook
00:06:44groups where like minded people united by a willingness to have sex without attraction get together and make plans It was before any mass awareness of dogging or of exclusive vetted sex clubs The default assumption at the time was that most couples kept their own bedroom we did wonder
00:07:02though whether i response would have deferred if we'd found either of them attractive wei agreed that the next time farah knocked i'd give her short shrift to prevent this from becoming a habit but over the months and years that followed what became clear was that no shrift was
00:07:20short enough to deter this woman she was oblivious to rejection armor plated against any social slight granted she gave up asking us to watch porn with her but she did invite me over to see their house one day which i told was entirely unnecessary we viewed their house
00:07:37on the same day with view towers out of politeness i traipsed over there to be shown the crowded kitchen the aggressively our techs living room and then their bedroom complete with farrah's extensive collection strap on dildos do you have any of these She said no i've seen enough
00:07:58by them to know that this wouldn't embarrass her she knocked on the door over and over again demanding an endless series of little favors which it would have been petty to deny she constantly needed small quantities of sugar or teabags lemons or potatoes she needed to borrow the
00:08:15stick blender or the garden streamer I often suspected that she calculated those needs just to maintain her place in my attention but i could never be sure and it sounds ridiculous to say it out loud inevitably i got to know her a little better she'd arrived on the
00:08:31doorstep and talk until i invited her in sometimes staying for hours while i conscientiously avoided offering her another cup of tea are mugs lying empty between us after a while i'd stop all together and see how long it would take her to notice the answer wass that we
00:08:47could have entered the next ice age before she realised that any conversation was non reciprocal man this woman could talk a machine might have guessed she was incapable of any level of discretion after a year of living on that street i could itemize every aspect of their finances
00:09:05he's freelance income her salary there numerous debts and the enormous bank transfer her father made each month because they couldn't get their books to balance by my calculation and knowing exactly what their house cost they were significantly better off than us but that didn't stop farah from landing
00:09:22on the doorstep one afternoon to ask without any preamble for alone three hundred pounds when i said no she just trumped she was just seeing if she could get away with it nothing ventured nothing gained soon she was pregnant and shortly after her daughter was born farah began
00:09:41to wonder aloud if it wasn't high time she took a lover on drew just couldn't satisfy all her sexual need she said she needed more what does that do you think of this I asked andrew she said almost startled the question have clearly never entered her mind and
00:09:59she just wants me to be happy she didn't find her lover immediately but by the time she did i began to wonder if it wasn't an act of financial necessity wealth um raw sexual instinct after her maternity leave ended she returned to agency nursing and was suddenly a
00:10:16wellspring of inappropriate little pharmaceutical gifts but i guess had been lifted from whichever ward she worked On that day i once mentioned to her that i had a sore throat and she went running into her covered to find a bottle of energies express that she assured me was
00:10:30usually prescribed for people with throat cancer I tried it left my mouth so number i couldn't tell whether or not i was still breathing There was a repeated offer of temazepam and the insinuation that morphine very useful for a hangover Unsurprisingly farrow was seen out of work She
00:10:51began to ask if i'd hold the baby for half an hour while she walked up to the main road to use the phone box her home phone has been cut off On one occasion we stretched a two and a half hours while i sat wondering if i'd have
00:11:03to hand the child over to social services One night they knocked on the door on fami andrew looking thinner and bluer than ever and said that they're boiler had broken down which i took to mean that the gas has been cut off that they perhaps grab a quick
00:11:18shower i couldn't exactly refuse what i didn't expect that i accept this was hopelessly naive was that there be nipping in and out for a solid fortnight and that i would find myself picking sparkly unicorn stickers off the bathtub on more than one occasion after their daughter's bedtime
00:11:34splash That arrangement ended after we came home from the pub but eleven one night to find the bathroom door locked we knocked on andrew called out i'm just having a bath okay We thought a little unusual a little bit past the time that you'd consider it acceptable to
00:11:52use someone's bathroom but perhaps is just finishing up not a bit of it an hour later we were playing rock paper scissors to decide who should go in there and asking to leave for the boiler repeatedly fired is andrew topped up with hot water he left in something
00:12:08approaching outrage when i finally called through the door that i really need to brush my teeth so that i could go to bed and then the lover landed i say landed but what i actually mean is that fair addressed in a transparent shirt paraded him up and down
00:12:22the terrorists one sunny afternoon with andrew carrying the baby behind him keeping his eyes to the ground This is rob she said to anyone unfortunate enough to capture i he's my lover and he's moving in with us rob appeared to be an exact facsimile of andrew pale skinny
00:12:41and floppy head except my new plea more robust looking he even managed to catch my eye as i said hello we speculated that he was some kind of evil twin who was driving a hundred expense We've made andhra bed in the dining room said farrah completely unbidden do
00:13:00you mind that Hundred I asked Andrew shrugged He looked like he'd been bled he was so empty that he nearly cold into himself We stopped seeing in much after that At first i thought he'd found some self respect to move back in with his parents but he was
00:13:16still there i think living a kind of twilight existence in the basement dining room farah said he'd set up his computer in there and had exclusive use of the downstairs loo he was almost self contained a rather hope it was soundproof too although i suspect that nothing could
00:13:33have stopped him from hearing what the rest of us heard on a daily basis through the open window of farrah's front bedroom perhaps like the rest of us he stopped hearing it all together after a while it became part of the background noise of our street like the
00:13:47wearing of the circular saw a timber yard or the splintering of bottles as they were tipped into the dumpster in the back of the pub when it came down to it nobody cared after a while you can assimilate anything including sound of a couple going at it like
00:14:03knives while they're miserable husband takes care of their toddler downstairs perhaps that very extremity was farris and stake in the end she gave us no choice but to close our ears and avert their eyes the other occupants of the street across the road to avoid her or carry
00:14:19on walking with only the merest gesture of acknowledgment if she tried to start a conversation nobody got angry nobody judged nobody challenged her about her increasingly needy behavior they just settled into comfortable disinterest in the face of being ignored you could sense a kind of desperation emanating from
00:14:39farrah even from a distance the sex grew louder nobody cared She pushed flyers to everyone's door advertising her burlesque revue nobody cared She began to wear creaking thigh high pvc boots to the local coop limping around the ting goods like some particularly demented monster from a japanese horror
00:15:02film no one batted an eyelid quite simply she played every one of her cards too soon she had nowhere left to go But then one saturday afternoon in august i stepped out of my front door to find a brown volvo estate blocking the entire road and hemming my
00:15:22car in at the far end of the close wanting to go out i began to know what every door but i'd already guessed who it wass she'd done it should actually done it she'd finally found a way to force everyone to notice her the sex of course had
00:15:38started in earnest i braved the hail of ecstatic gas to knock on farrah's door no reply or perhaps there was a reply of sorts a certain increase in volume and paste that signaled that they were more than aware of my presence it was only then that i noticed
00:15:55they left their sun roof open i'd like to say that something broke in me but i think it had actually broken long ago this was just the aftershock i went back into my house and called the parking cop line and then i went down into my kitchen filled
00:16:10the washing up bowl with water carried it into the street and tipped it through the sun roof i left a note too clamped under a windscreen i would like to say that it was something pithy and elegant but it it was a long deranged list of all farrah's
00:16:26failings as a human being and they were numerous it felt good to finally name and itemize her transgressions in universal language it suggested that i wasn't alone that other people out there had endured a neighbor who was selfish narcissistic vulgar and egomaniacal An hour later she appeared in
00:16:46my port with robin toe on an expression of genuine battlement on her face clutching the note she said but catherine i can't imagine what i've done to offend you i just closed the door and after that she disappeared along with her daughter the lover and the wraith like
00:17:04husband i don't mean to suggest that they moved away now they were still there but they've fallen outside of my view somehow but i just didn't notice them anymore stacking up their bin bags at the end of the road parading the streets with the uncannily similar pair of
00:17:20men in their matching lumberjack shirts dragging home the groceries in boots high enough to constitute a circus act It was a ll suddenly invisible to me as if i'd learnt that life happened in layers that i could choose which one to exclude from my experience By then i
00:17:36was beginning to think it was time for a change anyway the street had begun to seem grumpy to me This house is crowded together like bad t justus i was learning to unsee some of the layers other ones were showing through time to move on time to move
00:17:53on thanks for listening to normal i really hope you enjoyed it if you did please give it some stars click subscribe and tell your friends it really really helps huge thanks to due to jeremy scott for doing the sound recording to margo selby for lending me her gorgeous
00:18:24studio to record it in and to the audience for turning up and laughing at my jokes i think it helped I gave more cocktails Thie soundtrack is mm an mm orton I'm not sure which by macchiato funk on dh that's issued under creative commons license if you like
00:18:42don't forget you can subscribe to my newsletter at tiny letter Dot com forward slash catherine may to receive a printed copy off my podcast text for tonight If you want to read along on dh you can also follow me on facebook at electric catherine may now that's a
00:18:59new innovation of line but i am very much there thanks again for listening I really do appreciate it and i hope to see you next month Ah

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