I’m the Opposite of all Those Things or How I Learned My Neighbour’s Name

6 Nov

I’ve wanted to tell this story for quite some time now, but for some reason it has always got pushed to the side whenever I found time to sit and write.  This is a true story that took place in the mid nineties while I was living in an apartment on Union Street on the North Side of Fredericton.  

I actually don’t know where to start.  Just thinking back to this time in my life conjures up so many memories and emotions.  I was in my early twenties and still trying to figure out how to live life on my own without having friends or family within shouting distance.  I had just moved into my first apartment on the North Side of the river after pulling off a successful exit from my previous apartment using the famous Late Night/Unannounced Method favoured by many tenants looking to either get away from an unfavourable landlord or simply hoping to score accommodations to better fit their income.  In my case, it was the latter.  

It was a time of firsts for me in several ways.  Up until this point, I had spent the past two years living in my first apartment on my own.  No roommates to steal my food or whose food I could steal, and no roommates to split the bills.  Eventually I fell behind and had to leave that place, hence my first late night exit mentioned earlier.  

Moving to the North Side was another first for me.  Known for being slightly rougher and a bit tougher than the South Side of town, my new neighbourhood onUnion Streetwas pretty damn exciting by all accounts.  When I announced to my friends that I was taking a place across the river, the stories of crack whores, gangland territorial disputes and unfathomable crime flowed from everyone’s mouths as if they were all secretly trying to force me to rethink my decision for the sake of my safety. 

 The people I got to know in the neighbourhood proved to be nice and not at all what the rumours led me to believe.  My windows were never smashed by kids throwing rocks that had the phrase you’re mine now written on them, nobody crapped on my front step and never once did I hear a single domestic dispute or even a gunshot.  That’s a lot more than I can say for the South Side of town. 

In addition to moving into this fictional crime zone, I was also moving into the first apartment I shared with a partner.  The girl I was seeing at the time seemed like a worthy roommate back when we hatched the plan to escape my previous apartment.  We were young then and looking back now, we must have been pretty stupid to have ever thought that arrangement would have worked.  Let me just say, if learning life’s lessons the hard way came with a financial kickback, I’d be living in a fucking castle right now.  Before I get too far off track with this story of firsts, I better cut to the chase.

 On one particular night, my live-in partner/girlfriend Jen had gone out to spend the evening with a few of her friends.  I feel it’s important to mention that by this point in our relationship we had been in our shared dwelling for close to a year and were quickly coming to terms with our differences in interests and character.  We seemed to share an unspoken understanding that our relationship was not going to pan out and we were both waiting to see who would drop the bomb first.  

Having the place all to myself for the evening was always a treat.  Unfortunately, on this particular night my evening was interrupted by a phone call that I’ve never forgotten.

I picked up the phone on the second ring and held it to my ear.  

“Hello?” I said. 

“Is this Matt speaking?” the voice on the other end asked. 

“Yes it is.  What can I do for you?” 

“Matt, this is Constable Spencer from the Fredericton City Police Department.  Your girlfriend isn’t home is she?” 

“No she isn’t,” I said.  “She went out to spend the evening with some friends.  Why to do ask?” 

“We have a report that she is on theWestmorelandStreetBridgeand is ready to jump.  Can we come in?” 

Not thirty seconds after agreeing to their request, there was a knock on the door.  I opened it and three police officers entered into our kitchen.  The officer who I had just spoke with on the phone then proceeded to tell me that Jen was indeed on the rail of the bridge and although she was surrounded by officers, she was still not completely out of harm’s way.  

The explanation then turned to questions about our day, our week and our relationship.  They asked me if we had had an argument or anything that evening that would have led to this.  At the time I couldn’t think of any reason she would be up there and had worked myself into a complete state of panic. Despite the fact that we may not have been the best of lovers, we certainly still cared for each other.  I was freaking. 

Just when I had reached the point of near hyperventilation having succumbed to the reality of the situation I was facing – my girlfriend wanted to die – I could no longer hold back the tears and all but felt apart in front of these three stern-faced officers of the law who were taking turns speaking softly into their radios. 

At that moment, there was a phone call for Constable Spencer on my home phone.  I remember it being one of those one-sided chats consisting mainly of a series of grunts, yups, uh-huhs and OKs.  I was losing my mind at this point, wondering what he was being told of the situation.  His face didn’t paint a pretty picture for the news he was receiving.  

When it was over, he hung up the phone, looked at his fellow officers and then spoke. 

“Matt, I have your last name down here as Carter.  Correct?” 

“That’s my name,” I said, struggling through tears and a very runny nose. 

“What is the apartment number here?  It’s this 673Union?” 

“This is actually 677Union,” I told him. 

“Well, I’m sorry to tell you we’re at the wrong house.  We’re looking for Matt Wilson at 673Union.  I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” he added.  

They had the wrong house! And just like that, without a word from either of his two companions, they walked out the door, got in their car and left, knocking over a plant on their way out.  Strangely enough, any resentment for the city police I may still carry is rooted more in the flower pot that cracked when it hit the floor than it is in playing with my emotions.  I guess that says something about the state of our relationship at the time.  We had dissolved from young kids in love into nothing more than awkward roommates who shared the unfortunate reality of having to sleep together each night all the while knowing we wish we were elsewhere.  

With the ordeal behind me, I called Jen at her friend’s place and explained to them what just happened.  She laughed it off like I had dreamt up the whole situation as an excuse to call and check in on her.  I could tell she wasn’t taking me seriously over the phone and no matter how hard I tried to convince her that this wasn’t some bullshit story, I don’t think she ever believed me. 

Afterwards, in hopes of clearing my head, getting some fresh air and maybe catching a glimpse of where Matt Wilson lived, I decided to go for a walk.  There was a good size park across the street from where I lived.  It met the river’s edge and offered the best view of the downtown city lights as they reflected across the water.  There had been several times when I came over to relax in the park, usually after disagreements when I felt the need to pout a bit or just escape the living arrangement gone bad that we had created together.  

I was making my way to a familiar bench by the water after unsuccessfully trying to locate which driveway the police car pulled into when two strangers approached me.  It was dark and they had been hiding in the shadows.  At the time, they just looked like to regular joes and for a brief moment, their speed and proximity led me to believe I was about to get mugged. 

“FrederictonCityPolice!  Stay where you are,” one of them said.   

When my eyes focused I recognised one of them as one of the three cops who had just knocked over a potted plant in my kitchen not fifteen minutes earlier. 

“It’s me you guys,” I said, thinking my new friends in the force would show a bit of compassion after making a mistake that any self-respecting 1-900-LAWYER would die to preside over. 

“Where you at Union Convenience in the past ten minutes,” one of the stone-faced men-of-the-law asked me. 

“How could I,” I asked. “You were just at my house.  How could I have walked there and back in less than fifteen minutes?” 

“Where do you live?” asked another. 

Dumbfounded, I threw the questions right back at them. 

“Is this a joke?  You guys were just in my apartment.  Remember?  You thought my girlfriend was on the bridge.  That was like ten minutes ago!” 

One of the officers told me I matched the description of someone who just robbed the Union Convenience, a crappy, over-priced video rental/smoke shop about three blocks up the street.  It was like they had completely forgot about our past interaction and made no effort to even acknowledge they knew what I was talking about.  It was like I was losing my mind or something.  

The capper of the evening remains unmatched to this day.  Over the radio I heard the description of the suspect being read out.  A male approximately 5’ 6” wearing a black jacket, jeans and a ball cap.  I had to point out to our city’s finest that I am 6” tall and was wearing shorts and a t-shirt with no baseball cap. 

“Did you hear that guys?  I’m the opposite of all those things.” 

I was later released without apology.

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