A week ago I posted a little photo of Meeester and I outside our first ever shared home. A few of my local readers even recognised the street.
There are a thousand stories I could tell about our time there but for now I want to concentrate on one aspect of the place; our neighbour, the Other Meeester M.
Yes, believe it or not, the man across the hall from us shared exactly the same first and last name as Meeester. And it was a nightmare.
The Other Meester was Homunculus of a man of indeterminate age living on the fringes of society. He had one tooth that was apparent, an almost visible haze of age old body odour and a penchant for invading personal space.
His flat smelled of dog shit even though he did not own a dog.
Although I never ever went inside the flat I also knew he didn’t have an inside toilet, as he would use the one on the stairs left over from the times that the now dead tenants of the building used back in the day.
One person that should have been dead but wasn’t, was his mother who still lived with him. I only ever saw her once or twice when she was wheeled out to an ambulance taking her to some old folks' home for respite care. She did look like a corpse but comparing her to Norman Bates’s shrivelled Mummie Mummy would be lazy writing. Suffice to say, she must’ve been in her late nineties at least.
Given that the flat was a tiny one bedroomed flat that only had enough space for a single bed in the bedroom (if our bedroom was anything to go by), questions arose as to just what the sleeping arrangements were Chez Other Meeester and his zombie mother. One could only guess… and then shiver.
The worst thing about the Other Meeester was his attempts to inveigle himself into our daily life. He was clearly a lonely man, and at first you couldn’t help but feel his pain as he tried to chat to you in the hallway. But chatting to him was a mistake, as it only encouraged him to be more of a nuisance and any sympathy you might have had didn’t last long. In no time at all it appeared that every time we opened the front door, there he would be a nanosecond later in front of you, as if by chance.
Soon we became adept at bracing ourselves for our exit out of the flat in record time, getting from flat door to out on the street in a time that Roger Bannister could only dream of. Our friends would be warned to knock on our front window rather than ringing the buzzer and alerting him to the presence of fresh meat.
After a couple of months of avoiding bumping into him, the Other Meeester began to notice that we weren’t going to be his best mates after all, and he turned a little nasty. He began to misuse his identity as the Other Meeester M to accept parcels and letters that didn’t belong to him. The Real Meeester M worried that one day, he would find himself with a completely stolen identity, banished to the fringes of society himself whilst the Other Meeester lived the life that was rightfully his.
The Other Meeester M also started to complain about any noise. Any noise at all. Previously happy to hear the sound of our front door being opened, signifying a chance at much longed for company, he began to complain that we made too much door noise. Previously trying to invite himself in if he heard any music or visitors’ chatter, he would arrive and complain as soon as the radio was turned on, or we had any guests. Our life wasn’t our own. It also belonged to the Other Meeester M.
We couldn’t win because whether our buddy or our nemesis, there he would be; one inch away from your face, stinking of fire-damaged charity shops, rotting carcasses and dog shit with his foam edged toothless mouth dangerously close to spitting distance from your clamped-shut, bacteria-avoiding mouth and nostrils. I think even my pores would seize up in case of infection when he approached me.
Years after we moved out, the spectre of the Other Meeester M haunted us once more as during a mortgage application and credit check, the Other Meeester M’s dubious credit history threatened to stall the purchase of our current house. What a mess and what a challenge to prove that My Meeester M was not the Other Meeester M.
I don’t recall my Meeester having to do a DNA test to prove his true identity. If he had, I would have felt sorry for the poor lab technician dispatched to get a sample scraping from the Odd Meeester M next door. Not only would the poor bloke catch bubonic plague, he might never see daylight or his family again.