Domestic Bliss – living with Jerry and Sal

2017 July 27
by Paul

In the beginning

I can’t remember the first time I became aware of his presence. It might have been the mounting collection of cigarette butts in the car park; it could have been the odd snatch of conversation heard through open windows; perhaps it was the sound of his hideous lovemaking.

But what I do know is this: a man moved into the flats where I live, and he was different to the other residents. In a relatively well-off neighbourhood, in a pretty affluent town, was my set of flats amongst an otherwise ordinary collection of semi-detached houses and leafy avenues. Avenues that house decent humans, with a modicum of respect for one another. This man was different to those other people.

Acceptable sounds; vile sounds

Sounds I have heard from neighbours include occasional baby sounds. Babies cannot be held accountable for their sounds. Or rather, they can – and fully. They are 100% responsible, but they are an accepted irritation. We put up with their wails just as we put up with the side effects of gravity, or how water tastes. Beyond these sounds, I can’t name many more besides the odd squeaking floorboard, or sounds associated with vehicles being manoeuvred.

But this man – and I’ll call him Jerry, simply because I don’t know his name – this Jerry was the source of a whole cacophony of sounds, nay, noises to which we neighbours would soon become very familiar.

Mostly it is his guttural manner of speech. One would think he has spent his entire life around people with a hearing problem; he shouts. Always. Always he shouts. Jerry does not know quietness. To play Chinese Whispers with Jerry would be to lose your hearing in one ear – possibly both.

Foul-mouthed

Jerry is not old. I would say he is in his early 40s. He is loud, we know this. He is also foul-mouthed. Filthily-mouthed. He has a potty mouth inasmuch as he simply defecates on language and order itself. It isn’t so much the swearing as the sheer disregard he pays to the words he attempts to form. And it isn’t a cockney accent. Nor an Essex accent. I don’t know what it is; it’s an amalgamation of these, but rendered offensive and unholy through his lack of care.

Jerry and Sal

I do not know Sal. I have not met her. But Sal lives with Jerry. I do not know Jerry’s real name, but I do know Sal’s. I know, because it is spoken by Jerry in the same way as he speaks most words: with volume, without care, and usually tinged red, with anger. Sal is Jerry’s lover. His boarder. His flatmate. The source of his sexual fulfilment; the provider of half his rent; the reluctant sponge for his rage.

Jerry and Sal don’t always argue. It is sometimes hard to decipher whether Jerry is in a good mood or bad, but it is easy to know when Jerry is angry. If I suspected anything like domestic abuse, I would intervene (by proxy, of course), but as it stands, mere shouting is just something Sal appears to put up with. On occasion, she gives as good as she gets, but this is rare.

Where’s my punk spirit?

Jerry was a punk. In many ways, Jerry still is a punk. Studied as a historical movement, it is easy, perhaps convenient, to look upon the punk movement as a cause for good; a necessary revolution. Look at those punks, with their extreme hair and bondage wear. But look also at those punks, those menaces to society. In particular, look at those men who, growing into their 40s still have the maturity they did when they were 20. The same attitudes. Anger.

Once I heard the familiar sounds of London Calling from Jerry and Sal’s flat. When I was younger, around 15, I held the ideals of punk – of Strummer et al, of 1977 and beyond – high above me, in wonder. Nearly ten years on, and in close proximity to the direct consequences of some of those people and attitudes, I find myself disgusted and loathing. Not every aspect of punk is negative though.

Where’s my punk spirit when I need it? Where’s Jerry’s punk fucking spirit?

Communal living

I can grow used to most characteristics of communal living. As a student I have lived in halls. In more adventurous days I spent months on end in backpacker’s hostels surrounded by social outcasts. Drug addicts. Snorers.

But I cannot get used to Jerry’s volume. I can get used to his anger. To his manner of speaking. But not the volume of it. Jerry has kept me up some nights. Sometimes he has friends over. Friends like him. Of course. Who else could be friends with Jerry but people like Jerry.

Where will it end?

I want the punchline to come. The joke’s gone on far too long. When will this character be written out of my life? It’s about time he faded into insignificance. It was unfair that he arrived, almost literally, upon my doorstep. But now it’s just cruel. I want to make his life hell. I want to wake him at 6am. I want to disturb him. I want to disgust him as he disgusts me.

Sometimes I get Hollywood movie-style visions of invading his flat like an army, taking Sal hostage with a view to releasing her, and torching the place, leaving Jerry trapped inside the walls of his own screaming. I want to inflict my pent-up rage upon him.

Karma

But I won’t. Because I am a good neighbour. I will put up with my proximity to the horrors of his very existence until some event transpires to allow me some respite. I believe, vainly, in karma. That silly attitude that falls somewhere between superstition and supermarket loyalty card. If I collect enough good points, I will get rewards in the post. But if I get one black mark against my name, with God as my witness, I will get my just desserts.

And if Jerry living in my flats is revenge for one such set of negative karma then I’d really like to know what I did to deserve him. It must have been pretty fucking bad.

Paul Capewell