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What we will remember of our neighbours after the lockdown

With the end of the quarantine we can go back to hating the upstairs tenant

What we will remember of our neighbours after the lockdown With the end of the quarantine we can go back to hating the upstairs tenant

The interviews at the news with neighbours of those who had just turned out to be murderous or violent sociopaths always seemed rather paradoxical. "He seemed like such a good person, he never bothered anyone." How much, in fact, can we really know about the tenant who lives below us? 

The relationship with neighbours has always been a topic very dear to cinema and television, that mystery, that impossibility of knowing what happens beyond the door have been fertile ground for the birth of masterpieces, from Hitchcock and Polanski to Sam Mendes and Woody Allen. Without suspecting murders or mysterious disappearances, in these weeks of house confinement, the neighbours have become the new protagonists in the comedy (or perhaps the tragedy) that takes place within the walls of the house. People we rarely met, running down the stairs, in the elevator, in the parking lot, have become the faces and sounds that we see and hear most these days. 

Our approach towards them has been fluctuating, as has the mood that characterized these days. Feeling closer, at least virtually, united by the same situation, at the beginning of the lockdown we decided to raise our level of endurance towards them: animated by unprecedented tolerance, we tried to forgive the noise of the drill on Saturday morning, we pretended not to see the shoes left outside the door as if the hallway was an extension of their apartment, we turned a blind eye even when the middle school girl on the third floor practised for three hours with the flute. 

Tired of talking only with our family, our roommates, or on the contrary having no one to talk to, those who until one month ago you would have gladly slapped during a lively apartment building meeting, become an interesting diversion in these monotonous days. The encounters, quick and at a distance, are cordial, but still a little cold, we exchange a few words - inevitably the favourite topic is the pandemic, with inevitable comments ('They had to close everything immediately', 'There will certainly be another wave'), with the same lightness with which weather forecasts were once commented. 

When the lockdown began we convinced ourselves that all this free time on our hands would allow us to get to know ourselves better, to rediscover ourselves, to appreciate ourselves. Perhaps most of all in recent weeks we had the chance to get a slightly deeper knowledge of our neighbours, a knowledge that took place practically without direct interactions. There's the Ecuadorian family that always prepares delicacies that leave an exquisite perfume for the whole stairwell (that type of perfume that never came out of my house); there is the funny dad who spends his days in the garden playing football with his two sons; the lady obsessed with cleaning who does nothing but tidy up the house (this even before the quarantine to be honest); the 40-year-old who practices sax every evening while the whole palace listens; the couple who have been married for more than thirty years and have spent all this time arguing, without ever breaking up. You start making assumptions about which couples are in crisis 'Ah but did you hear them?', 'I have never seen her smile', you try to understand who on the other hand is single, you get to know the musical tastes of those around you, and some of them of TV too especially thanks to the volume with which the theme song of TG1 resounds, comparable only to the volume with which your grandmother watches Don Matteo. 

The one risen in recent weeks is a microcosm populated by different people, which stands on a precarious equilibrium. It would be nice to believe that this shared experience will leave a deep mark on our way of relating even in the months to come - and maybe it will be - that despite the much-desired regained freedom we will continue to endure and to put up with others, without transforming into neighbourhood policemen on the hunt for who invites (too many) relatives or who does not wear the mask. For the moment, we will just puff a little less when the one upstairs decides to move all the furniture in the living room at midnight.