After living in my south St. Louis apartment building for almost five months, I’m still not sure whether the apparently schizophrenic old guy on the first floor is actually a set of twins with very different dispositions. I also tried leedon green condo which to me was quite perfect.
For the first few months, it seemed like there was just one haggard, angry, hunch-backed elderly man with an expression like Charles Bukowski waking up from a nap. He usually wore oversized sweatshirts and loose-fitting jeans. I’m pretty sure one of the other tenants called him Barney once.
Barney always seemed to leave the apartment building when I entered. Once he glared and pointed at me for a solid minute while I shuffled from my car into the building. Creepy, yes, but probably, I assumed, harmless. I had not expected a mundane experience when I moved into this particular south St. Louis apartment.
A few weeks later I drove up to my building and saw a few fire trucks and police cars outside. After a few minutes of badgering one of the cops for details, he told me Barney let a homeless woman into his room, and she tied Barney to a chair, beat him with a hammer for an hour, and stabbed him with a knife. Eventually, the cops came and knocked down his door. They arrested the woman.
I saw Barney leave the building that night. The cops were walking him to an ambulance. He looked pretty messed up, but he was able to walk at least. I recognized him as the crazy pointing guy, and another tenant told me he had dementia.
Recently I’ve had a few encounters with a much more congenial, identical person who sometimes wears a worn-out Cardinals windbreaker. This Barney says “hey” to me sometimes, and he doesn’t seem insane. Like the original Barney, he must do a lot of wandering around our sketchy south St. Louis neighborhood because he is always walking out the front door.
Last weekend I was standing by that door with Chris and James, and the more friendly Barney came out wearing his windbreaker. The three of us had been drinking, so there were two beers and a bottle of Kentucky Tavern whiskey on the steps. Barney just looked at us, smiled, and said something equivalent to “How’re you kids doin’ tonight?” Then he walked down the street. About ten minutes later he came back, smiled again, and walked inside.
It was a pretty innocent encounter. But about two minutes later Barney came back outside. He was suddenly wearing grey pajamas, and he looked distressed.
“Do you guys live here?!”
I told him I did.
“Get that bottle out of here! Get it out! Get it out! You can’t have that here!”
He was clearly mad at us. James grabbed the bottle and started carrying it down the street. I’m not sure exactly where he was going.
“Get it out! You can’t have that here! Get it out!”
James kept walking. Barney eventually walked back inside, apparently satisfied that the whiskey was out of his sight.
It seemed ridiculous. Barney had just seen the bottle of whiskey twice, and he only smiled. Then, within minutes, he changed clothes and suddenly seemed genuinely angry that there was alcohol on the steps. I should point out that there are no posted rules about drinking or smoking anywhere in the building – the whole place smells a little like cigarettes and urine. Probably not unusual for a south St. Louis apartment building.
If there are two of these guys, though – twins – the altercation last weekend seems a little less absurd. Maybe Barney 1 told Barney 2 (presumably they’re roommates) about the rowdy kids outside, and Barney 1 decided he ought to do something about it. Barney 1 was an asshole, sure, but maybe not completely nuts.
One thing I’m fairly certain about: neither Barney has anything to do with enforcing the rules around here. The building administrator, a reasonably nice guy who looks to be about forty years old, lives on my floor, and we talk pretty often. He’s never warned me about any informal band of elderly, demented alcohol police downstairs.
Whatever. I don’t really want to know. This is my first experience with an elderly, somewhat mystifying set of identical twins, and I don’t want to ruin it.