Couple in Bed Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
By Chris Vespoli



AWKWARD NEW YORK is a weekly column about the uncomfortable experiences of Chris Vespoli in and around NYC. Every Tuesday is another cringe-worthy account, from being fat shamed by a Dunkin’ Donuts employee to crashing Fashion Week.

Living in New York, one becomes accustomed to all kinds of noise: Garbage trucks compressing loads of trash before dawn…Livery cab drivers honking their horns at every corner, trying to attract the attention of potential fares…Your parents’ voices echoing inside your head, chastising you, “You’re 31. How much longer are you going to throw your money away every month on rent in the City?”

One of my favorite games to play whenever my wife and I would hear a loud pop on the street outside our East Harlem studio was “Gunshot or Car Backfiring?” — which was normally followed up the next morning with a round of “Blood on the Sidewalk or Just Spilt Fruit Punch?”

I’d choose to never get the cops involved in these kinds of situations because they always tended to work themselves out. In New York, if you see something, you say something…unless it doesn’t concern you, in which case, you keep your mouth shut. But one particular early Sunday morning, I had no choice.

My wife, our dog, and I were jolted awake by a lot of yelling — wailing, really — and a lot of commotion, as if someone was writhing on the floor, emanating from the apartment above us. The building had always been a quiet place to live, aside from the woman on the fourth floor who suffered a nervous breakdown and threatened to jump out of her window some years prior, but, hey, we all have our issues.

“Are you hearing this?” my wife asked me through the pale blue pre-dawn glow coming from our bedside window as the yelling and scrambling across the floor of the apartment above us echoed, abated momentarily, then continued, like a series of waves crashing into the shoreline of our sanity.

My wife’s acknowledgement of the noise proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this wasn’t a dream; this was actually how my Sunday morning was starting: with a stranger being loudly murdered above our heads (so much for brunch). My initial reaction was to do nothing, hoping that each eruption of chaos would be the last. But after another minute of unrest, it was clear that action was warranted.

Choosing not to inject myself into a potential homicide, I decided against investigating the situation on my own and left it in the able hands of the NYPD. Within minutes of dialing 911, my buzzer was ringing. I heard the elevator go down to the lobby, come back up again past our floor, then stop at the one above us. By now, all of the commotion up there had ceased. Another few minutes went by, and I heard the officers coming back down to our floor. Then there was a knock on our door.

I threw on a hoodie and opened the door to find a male and female officer from the 23rd Precinct. There’s something about having two cops at your doorstep that makes you feel like you’re guilty of something, even if you’re a law-abiding citizen with a clean record. A million different scenarios raced through my head in which the officers manifested some kind of probable cause to enter, spotted a few too many complimentary restaurant ketchup and soy sauce packets on the kitchen counter — or perhaps the coasters we had lifted from local bars — and brought me in for petty theft, into The Tombs where I’d languish for the rest of the weekend while I waited to see a petulant judge who’d throw the book at me…Next stop, Sing Sing.

But none of that happened, of course. They were extremely nice. The female officer proceeded to inform me about just what the hell was going on up there. She and her partner had entered the apartment above us to find a very large, breathless, sweaty man. And he wasn’t alone; there were two women there with him. The man claimed to have been having a seizure, which apparently explained all the yelling and shuffling around on the floor.

It was very obvious that the female officer wasn’t buying a word of the story as she was relating it to me, raising her eyebrows and shooting me a smirk at the mention of the man’s sweatiness, the presence of the women, and, of course, the frenetic “seizure” — a possible cover story for what sounded like a threesome gone wrong…or gone right, depending on one’s idea of a successful ménage à trois. The male cop told me to call 911 if I heard any more disturbances (translation: if the large man upstairs brought more women home from the club to bang out in a drug-induced frenzy), but all would remain quiet until the end of our lease.

I never did meet the guy who lived above us, and that’s probably for the best. “Nice to meet you; I’m the guy who called the cops on you for fucking too loudly” probably wouldn’t have gone over well in the elevator.



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