This is one of the prose poems in the book Crónicas Schevingeanas, published by Valparaiso Ediciones. Long live the new neighbors! (oringal in Spanish)
The New Neighbors
The new neighbors upstairs have already started throwing things down, or let’s say, to be correct, dropping things in our patio. The first to fall was the underwear. I didn’t notice, but when I went outside, I heard a voice coming from upstairs. I looked up and saw a boy, plump, round-faced and blond, who was looking down, and calling to me, Mevrouw! He was pointing at something in our backyard. And I understood, yes, although my Dutch is still primitive, I understood. A piece of clothing had fallen off the rope and he wanted me to give it to him. So, I looked around, and I saw, in our rope, the black underwear that had got caught. I showed to him, he said, yes! and I tried to throw it up. The first time, it didn’t make it, the second time, I threw it so badly that it went into the postman’s yard. I went to get it, and I said, in my broken Dutch: “I’ll go up and give it to you by the front door.” With my shooting skills, it’s better to climb the stairs and hand it to him. That’s what I did, but I guess the kid didn’t understand, oh surprise, because he wouldn’t open the door for me. I knocked once, nothing, twice, and after a while I saw him coming. When he opened, I said, here it is, and he was very happy. Although I think that when he closed the door, I heard a woman’s voice scolding him…
After a while, I’m sitting at my desk writing on the computer, and I hear a light knock. Very faint, so faint that I got up and asked Marcel, did you hear anything? And he said, there was a knock on the door. I open the door, and I see a little girl, about six years old, skinny, blond, blue-eyed, like the boy, standing in front of the door, silent. Hi! I say. She tells me in Dutch that they dropped clothes in the patio. Again! I think. I go out to look, I want to tell the girl to come in and look for it herself, but the words don’t come out, they get stuck, in Dutch, they don’t flow… so I go out, and again I hear a voice from above. I look, and it was the mother, who from the balcony said to me, hello ma’am, my daughter went to your door to get the clothes… yes, yes, I tell her, I already talked to her, so I look around but I can’t find it, until she points it at me, I see a sock hanging from the arm of the Robocop, and I go out to give it to the girl. She grabs it, and then she just stares at me, as if waiting for something, and I say, is that it? She doesn’t say anything, but she’s still standing there, so I look at her and do the thumbs up, as if to say, okay then! And I say, Het is goed? Okay? And since she didn’t say anything, I kind of wanted to close the door, so I wave goodbye with my hand… Oh, I am so cold, but I can’t talk!!! Dutch gets stuck in my throat! She realizes this and leaves. I laugh and tell Marcel. Poor thing, I say to him. She didn’t understand me.
Another while goes by, a long while, and I go outside and see a pink pair of pants and another pair of underpants suspended over one of our plants, just below the balcony. Ah! And then I understood. The girl probably didn’t know how to tell me that there were more, that there were others missing, and I didn’t see them. So, I went out the front door, to the common entrance where the stairs are, went up to the first floor, and left their clothes in front of the door on some boxes they still had waiting to be unpacked.
The next day, it was raining, and I found a soaked green towel on the floor. I went upstairs and left it, without knocking, in the entrance. And here we go again…