Do you know your neighbor? What is your neighbors’ name? If you heard shouting or screaming or even worse thought that someone was hurting them would you call or reach out to help? What if you knew that by doing one of these things it would save a life? Do you love your neighbor?
It’s evening time, the sun is about to set and despite the long ride home due to traffic; his day was really uneventful. He walks inside, kicks off his shoes and proceeds to the kitchen to put away the few items he had just purchased at the grocery store. As much as he wanted to sit and relax, he decides against the delay in making dinner. He hears the voices of a man and woman having a heated argument in the apartment next door. The only thing separating these two rooms; his kitchen cabinet and two pieces of thin sheet rock. He attempts not to be nosey, but the shouts are getting louder. He begins to remind himself yet again why he chose to live here instead of rooming with his forgetful brother. The one who always “forgets” to pay his portion of all the bills. The shouts turn into what he knows to be a scuffle. His inner child returns to vivid moments where he hid in fear of his own mothers’ torment. A glance toward the countertop where his cell phone was placed as he tries to decide what to do next. Do you call the police? Do you walk the few steps to the neighbors and make sure everyone is all right? Or should he follow the warning from his step dad who always shouted at him to, “mind your own damn business!” Unable to decide what to do; he stands still for a moment. Sounds pretty bad. This is a family matter. I shouldn’t intrude. It would be rude, right? Maybe even awkward afterwards, because they’ll think I’m a nosey busy body. They aren’t really THAT loud, these walls are just thin. He begins to justify. He proceeds with dinner putting 5 items for his one pot recipe together and then into the oven. When the timer goes off, he’ll be ready to watch his favorite game show. He hears the neighbors’ door open quickly and thinks for a moment that maybe the other decides to leave, but no. The fighting continues and then as suddenly as it began, it stops. Good, he sighs in relief.
I wonder what those two could have been fighting about. They seem so quiet and usually stay to themselves. I’m sure it was over something so small and they’ll be laughing about it someday soon. Dinner's almost ready to come out of the oven when he hears the sound of sirens getting closer. He sees the lights outside his window and thinks someone else must have been concerned about the noise too. He peaks out the window just in time to see the man next door being placed in the back seat of the car. Onlookers were being pushed back as the police placed yellow tape near his door that followed the driveway toward the end of the street. What in the world has happened? The neighbor placed in the patrol car was bloody, but seemed unharmed. He must have hurt her pretty bad he thought. He steps outside where the other neighbors have gathered. “Excuse me.” the policeman approaches him. “Do you live here?” he asked. “Yes. How can I help you?” he responds. “Have you been in your home this evening?” the officer continued. “Yes sir, I have.” he answers. “Did you hear anything? While we were in the apartment next door, we could hear your television clearly, so surely you must have heard something. We’d like to know what you heard.” The officer waits for his response. “Is she okay?” he asked. “No sir, she is not okay. She is dead. Murdered.” Just moments ago he couldn’t decide whether to call and now this? He feels as if he cannot move his legs, stomach drops and his mouth for the moment will not move. What do you mean murdered? He thinks, but cannot say. The only neighbor who would make a point to always smile and speak. “Why in the world would he do that?” he manages to say out loud. “She was so kind.” “Did you know the deceased?” asked the officer. “Never met her formally, but when I moved in a few weeks ago she helped me carry my couch in when at least 5 other dudes were in the area and not one offered to give me a hand. She was surprisingly strong too.” I know she told me her name, but I’ve been in my own world since I got here. “So what did you hear?” he asked again. “I heard them arguing pretty loud, but I honestly didn’t listen to what was being said.” he answered. “So you just heard them arguing? Could you not hear or tell that there was a physical altercation so badly leading to ones’ death taking place within a few feet of where you stood? Only a piece of sheetrock that separated you from the next room of your “kind” neighbor.” The officer was upset and understandably frustrated.
He stood there unable to convince himself or anyone else that during those moments he felt justified in his reason for staying out of it. The many incidents his very own mother had survived her abuser, he never once thought that it could lead to her death. Now this woman was gone, because he too was taught like others to stay out. Could this have been prevented? Why did neighbors feel defenseless in helping another? Her life was violently taken while others too felt disempowered to step in and help.
This is a short story loosely based on a neighbor that lived near our sister. Unfortunately, similar versions can be heard or felt daily by witnesses, families and those whose lives are cut short due to violence in their homes. Days after her life was taken, I stood among the neighbors who came together for a candlelight vigil they organized on her behalf and encouraged her neighbors to remember my sister if they ever heard another person being harmed. A knock on the door, or a 9-1-1 call can save a life. Should you decide to do something, the life you save; someone loves.
Love Talita Akana is a wife, mother, sister, and a friend. Over the years, she has shared guidance from the lessons she has learned. Grateful to be a vessel to assist others as a source of inspiration to touch another with what they learned to grow on their journey. This is Love.