I'm still not sure about putting this on my blog - but I've got no one else to tell. It happened 24 hours ago and I can still feel my pulse racing. It was easily one of the biggest confrontations of my life, maybe even the worst.
My downstairs 'neighbour' (in the flat below me) and I have always had a fragile relationship - superficially 'friendly' though deep down we've never really trusted each other.
The initial trouble first began soon after he moved in downstairs six years ago when he warned me with overt hostility about my letting out my little Blackso around 5 o'clock every morning, waking him up when he was trying to sleep. He threatened to tell my landlord about my having a cat (which my landlord already knew about) when we tenants are not supposed to have pets of any description. (Incidentally, he himself has now got a dog! - a lovely, friendly little mongrel who wails piteously whenever he's left alone, which is too often.)
Since that time years ago our chance encounters have been kind of strained 'polite' on top but after that incident I've never been able to bring myself to accept him as someone I can rely on as a friend. I habitually refer to him as 'Mr Nasty'.
He's 59 years old but, quite honestly looks 20 years older, with battered face, apparently toothless apart from one prominent upper central tooth; he's separated from his wife and with a now 16 year-old daughter who, he told me only recently, now refuses to visit him.
Every so often he plays loud pop music (mainly of the 70s and 80s, a lot of it unfamiliar to me) thumping up through my floor, very probably when he's got himself pissed. I can hear him daily on his phone swearing liberally at whomsoever - his ex-wife? his 'friends' (of whom he has quite a number)? those he works with?
It's plain that he's almost certainly had a violent past, possibly including a prison term or more (the dog he's got belonged to a friend who's now been recalled to jail) - and he drinks and smokes, despite having had a large part of one lung removed as well as having a heart by-pass. Oh, and his work is as a 'carer'!
But back to yesterday. It was all about Blackso again, now surely in the advanced twilight of his life (18 years old), hardly able to walk (yet eating well and still usually with a wet nose), spending all his time in the kitchen sleeping in a litter tray on the litter 'gravel', often relieving himself just where he lies (which I don't in the least mind cleaning up for him). Anyway, I've been taking him outside two or three times a day and leaving him in the overgrown back garden to give him a change of scenery and some fresh air while checking up on him every hour or so before bringing him in again. In the recent hot weather I've been laying him down in the shade but despite the heat I've seen that he drags himself to lie in the sun - maybe as a consequence of losing so much fur which makes him feel cold? Every so often I offer him water as well as occasional eats.
Yesterday afternoon came a hammering at my door.
Mr Nasty - "Will you bring your f*ckin' cat in! He's suffering out there under the sun in the heat." (I normally get a speechless, all-over shock-paralysis when someone directs heightened anger at me, and so it threatened to be so again, but I didn't allow it to happen this time.)
"I've had a word with someone and they tell me to report you to the RSPCA!" (= American ASPCA).
"Hang on" I said "If he's in the sun he's moved there. I left him in the shade."
But Mr Nasty wasn't listening to my words. I assume he'd had a few beers or more, as he does daily.
"How can you be so f*ckin' cruel? Just bring him inside, watch him and let him die. If you leave him there in the sun I'm going to report you".
It didn't matter what I said, he wasn't listening.
"I'm also going to tell the landlord!"
My protestations were in vain.
"And I know all about you - where you've come from!"
"Where I've come from? What do you mean?"
"I know that you used to live in a f*ckin' tent!" (Spitting out that last word with forceful venom, as though I'd been a member of a paedophiles' collective!)
"I've never lived in a tent." I protested with incredulity at the 'accusation', trying to explain to him that the predecessor in his own flat had indeed been homeless and used a tent for sleeping on roadside grass verges.
"Well, that's what I was told."
"Who told you that?" (and anyway, why was being homeless such an awful thing as though one ought to be ashamed of to be in that position?)
But he was only listening to himself getting out what he had to say about my cat.
After so much of this barrage of effing and blinding straight at me I finally slammed the door in his face . He shouted through "Right, I'm now going to f*ckin' report you to the f*ckin' RSPCA."
"Do that!" I shouted back.
I came back upstairs, sat down, heart racing like mad, mind in a complete whirl. How dare he suggest I'd ever be deliberately cruel to my pets, letting them suffer. He already knew full well the high regard I have for each of the three of them - and Blackso most of all, my best friend in the entire world.
About five minutes later a softer knocking at the door:-
"What?" I yelled.
"Can I just have a word with you?"
With a sigh, and half expecting him to be standing there, ready for me with a knife, I went down and warily opened the door.
"Look, I only mean it for the best." (No apology).
"I know how fond you are of your cats but you really shouldn't leave them out in the sun." (His windows have a better view of the back garden than I have so he can see always see where Blackso is lying).
I said "Have you reported me? I hope you have because I want the chance to explain to them."
"No", he said "I'd never report you". (Yeah, right! So why the threat?)
After stammering out further self-justification for his threats he offered me a hand to shake. I did little more than touch it though I wish I hadn't done even that.
When he'd finished rambling on, feeling more sorry for what I might think of him than how he made me feel, I coldly closed the door and went up to sit and think again.
Of course I had to the bring Blackso inside to the kitchen, with the window blind down, but with a shaft of sunlight which Blackso dragged himself around to follow so he can lie in it.
Three or four hours later I took the cat outside again, but in the front where I stayed with him (the main road is too dangerous to leave him there alone). Mr Nasty came out:-
"Look, I'm sorry for what I said."
I told him straight that what upset me particularly was that he could come out immediately with a threat, even of blackmail, when he knew perfectly well my regard for the cats which I would never contemplate coming to any harm.
"I know" he said "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come on as strongly like I did."
It was an apology of sorts, but really only made because, as he himself admitted, that as we live in such close proximity we really need to get on with each other.
He offered me his hand again - "Here's my hand with my heart. Will you take it?" I did, though part of me wished I hadn't. "Are we still friends?" ("Still"? I hadn't realised we were!) Not wishing to prolong the hostility, what could I do but answer that, yes, we were?
I haven't seen him since then though I can hear him moving about below right now. As I say at the start above, it wasn't the first blow-up between us, and I doubt if it'll be the last.
I don't want another experience like that with anyone!
Meanwhile Blackso is lying in the kitchen, oblivious of the stirring that went on - sleeping in a shaft of sunlight.
6 minutes ago