I think my upstairs neighbor suffers from psychosis.
It’s hard to know for sure. I’ve barely met the guy. I just know that I can hear him shouting 24/7.
Mostly what he shouts is angry nonsense. It’s not constant – it pauses for a few seconds here and there, as if someone else is part of the conversation. But I never hear another voice. Besides, I sometimes hear him for, like, 15 straight hours, never stopping for more than a few seconds at a time. Who could be talking to him for that long? How could they tolerate his volume? This guy’s vocal projection is ungodly. His natural speaking voice sounds like a megaphone blast.
And I hear it. Almost every day. Shouting.
I figure the most likely explanation involves psychosis. I can tell from his disorganized speech patterns that the man is probably yelling at hallucinations. And I just don’t believe another human being could live in the apartment with him, putting up with his constant verbal abuse.
Things finally came to a head the other day when his voice kept me from sleeping. I decided to put on my shoes and do something about it, even though I’m a short young woman with a quiet voice, which puts my safety at risk when I have to deal with strange men. Despite all my conjecture about the state of his mental health, I knew there was a chance this guy was actually sane and just really, really angry. I would have to approach him carefully.
I bitterly wished anyone were around to back me up, but everyone in building management had gone home for the night, and I refused to call Minneapolis cops on the grounds that they’re murderous racists. So I ventured out alone.
The first thing I noticed as I stepped into the hallway was the sound of a baby crying one door down. The noise didn’t penetrate into my living room at all, yet I could hear megaphone man clearly.
Finding his door was not difficult. On my first knock, the shouting stopped, and a haggard-looking old man answered. He seemed to be alone in the apartment.
“Hi,” I said flatly. “I’m your neighbor and I’ve heard shouting through the floor all day.”
Something odd began to happen then. A smile creeped ominously over his face, and he suddenly threw his head back, as if flicking long, imaginary hair over his shoulder. Then he combed his fingers through his invisible hair and spoke in an airy, high-pitched voice:
“You heard shouting all day through the floor.” He emphasized every other word with a “hair” flick.
I stood there, arms crossed, utterly dumbfounded. The stranger in front of me was mocking me. His behavior walked the line between “too insane to be accountable” and “sane enough to be an asshole”. I didn’t know how to respond.
I didn’t have long to think about it, however, before he slammed the door in my face.
I stood frozen in disbelief for a moment, then shuffled back downstairs, furious. He gave me about a half hour of silence before the shouting started up again. It was the last thing I heard that night, and the first thing I heard the next morning. As I write this, he’s still stomping around up there.
If he struck me as a fully sane person, I would just be angry. However, his seemingly psychotic behavior makes me pause. Is it fair to hold a grudge against someone who medically cannot control their volume? If I report him to an authority (and again, I can’t emphasize this enough: not the useless MPD), is it wrong for them to penalize him? And yet, he’s made it clear that the yelling won’t stop on its own. How far can I reasonably go to get some peace and quiet in my home?
If housing management comes after him and he shows them as much disrespect as he showed me, he could end up fined. What if he needs that money to survive? What if it’s social security money he gets for his disability? If he’s evicted, will he end up on the street?
Will it be my fault?
Maybe he’s just a jerk who doesn’t have psychiatric problems, and I’m projecting too much. There’s no way for me to know. But in the absence of information, a lot of questions like these come up, and they may be too philosophical to have concrete answers. From a medical perspective, it’s impossible to measure a person’s exact grasp of reality, or what kind of intent lies behind their actions, if any. I want to be fair to his potential situation.
I also really, really want him to shut up.