Perhaps I’m a little slow on the uptake, but the other day after yet another raucous party, I finally realised that yes, the flat below me is let out as a ‘hotel apartment.’ I checked online. Honestly, judging by the ad you’d think Dovecot Towers was a 5 star beach resort.
With no one taking responsibility for the ‘guest’s’ behaviour (most notably, the noise) I called the management company and explained my plight. Astonishingly, they sorted it out. The flat was still recorded as being owner-occupied and our management was mendaciously informed by the sneaky but stupid owner that his rowdy mates had caused the furore (what: different mates? Every weekend?) He was threatened with eviction, since hotel-letting contravenes the lease. I subsequently discovered that two other flats on my corridor are let this way, which means that, by my reckoning, around twenty out of one-hundred and forty flats are rented by the day, and at some profit.
Why does this matter, you ask, since I’m moving out?
Because I was organising a collection to send flowers to the service of the man who died recently. What a completely pointless and dispiriting exercise that was, as nobody answered the door, even if they actually live here.
‘Sarah’ texted to say that a flower laying ceremony was planned on the street where her boyfriend had died, if she could face going back. I wanted to contribute something. I didn’t know them, but have been incredibly moved by their tragedy (I won’t say upset, since that would imply that my feelings belong on the same page as hers.) The friends who had been with her, trying to resuscitate him had already left flowers which were stolen shortly afterwards.
I spoke with my neighbour who had heard him scream as he fell (mercifully, I didn’t.) Like all of us she had dialled 999, but perhaps wisely and unlike myself had shut the doors so as not to hear those terrible events. I told my neighbour about the flower laying. She didn’t turn up or leave anything, and she’s the nicest person I’ve met in here. I already knew that there is absolutely no sense of community in Dovecot Towers, but the cold hard reality hit home when I realised that nobody else had left a card, even if they seemed to be concerned.
I hate those shrines that appear when there’s been an accident and people who never even knew the victim leave maudlin notes, cuddly toys and garage flowers, appropriating random tragedy, wearing other people’s darkness like a badge, but this was entirely different. Despite only meeting ‘Davey’ once, I wanted to show ‘Sarah’ that somebody here cares.
I waited on the street. First to arrive were their former house-mates, one of whom had tried to give him the kiss of life that awful night, and who was clearly traumatised by the horror and devastated by grief. They love ‘Davey’ and they miss him; this will always cast a long shadow on their lives. I think they were wearing the formal black clothes bought for graduation day just a few months ago. One of ‘Davey’s’ friends left a mango (he loved mangoes.)
‘Sarah’ arrived. I asked permission to leave my flowers and generously, she consented. ‘Sarah’ was fragile, weak and exhausted from weeping. She wobbled like a faun, and needed constant support; it was terrible to be back on that street again. Her expression haunts me: gather all the sadness in the world, mix in confusion, shock and overwhelming fear, and you’re only half-way there. She saw things that night nobody should ever have to see.
Obviously, ‘Sarah’ was not keen to linger. When I hugged her, she was thin; she can’t bring herself to eat. She’s blaming herself. She believes (wrongly I know) that she could have stopped him and I am so worried for her. I reminded her how strong she’d been, how hard she’d fought to save him, and that she had told ‘Davey’ many times how much she loved him that night (I understand that hearing is the final sense to fade.) As she left that awful street forever, she whispered, desperately: ‘…it was horrible.’
I couldn’t sleep that night. Every sound convinced me that someone was stealing the flowers, but in the morning, they were all there, along with the mango. They’re still there even now.
(NB: The letting-agents are refusing to be compassionate and won’t end the lease immediately or return ‘Sarah’s’ deposit until the flat is re-let, even though she only lived there a week, having paid a month upfront. They actually expected prospective tenants to view while ‘Sarah’ and ‘Davey’s’ possessions were still in the flat. Just when you think agents couldn’t be any more callous, they surpass themselves.)