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The Instigator

By Larry Gross · March 3rd, 2014 · Living Out Loud
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I’m going to call her Beverly here. Actually, for a long period of time, I got inside my head this was her real name.

She lives on the same floor as I do to here in an apartment building in downtown Covington, Kentucky. I’m guessing she’s in her late sixties. She’s rather short, big boned and has long, graying brown hair. I think if she ever attempted to smile, her face would crack.

I’ve always tried to be cordial to her, especially when I first moved into the building, but Beverly and I have never talked. In fact, she’s made it quite clear she doesn’t like me.

One afternoon last summer, we took an elevator ride together up to our floor. Dead silence all the way up, of course. When we reached our floor, I turned left and Beverly turned right. As she headed toward her apartment, Beverly, ever so slowly, uttered this word just loud enough for me to hear: “A-s-s-h-o-l-e.”

Having known Beverly for over a year now, and I use the word “knowing” loosely, I’ve discussed her with other tenants in the building simply trying to figure her out. I’ve learned she has a nickname. Beverly is known as “The Instigator.”

She’s a troublemaker. She likes to stir things up. People in my building tell me if she doesn’t like you, if you get on her “shit list,” you need to look out.

I’m apparently on her list. The thing is, I have no idea why.

Last fall, I was walking back to my apartment building from Walgreens on Madison Avenue.

I could see Beverly a block or so ahead of me and I decided to slow down my pace — didn’t want to walk side by side with the instigator.

I reached the apartment building maybe 10 steps behind Beverly. A neighbor of mine in the lobby area saw me coming in and asked Beverly to hold the elevator for me. She looked at me, then at my friendly neighbor and slowly shook her head no as the elevator door closed.

She’s been talking about me to the other tenants, too. Some of them listen to the instigator. Whether I want to know or not, they, the other tenants, inform me of what Beverly is saying. This building I’m living in does have a gossip mill.

Beverly says my television set keeps her up at night (I don’t own a television). I play my stereo too loud (I’ve never turned it on since I’ve moved into the building). I hang out with prostitutes on Madison Avenue. (Guilty — I’ve written about them here more than once.)

I’m not the only one Beverly has it in for. I’ve seen her have fights in the lobby with other tenants, have heard her get off the elevator while yelling at somebody to shut up and have witnessed her gossiping about other tenants while retrieving her mail. Beverly is truly a piece of work.

When I was younger, I think I would have confronted the instigator to find out what her problem is. I’d tell her if she has something to say about me to say it to my face. I’d ask her why she would call me an asshole when she doesn’t even know me. I’d want to know why she couldn’t hold the goddamn elevator door open for five seconds and I’d tell the old bitty I don’t even own a television set.

I’m not going to do any of that. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated, but not everyone is going to subscribe to that notion. Beverly won’t and I’m just going to let it go.

The reality is the instigator, Beverly, is a miserable person. I don’t know what has happened in her life to make her the way she is, but it’s not something I can fix or change. You can’t change people and I’m aware of the fact misery loves company. I’m not going down that road.

A couple afternoons ago, I was getting on the elevator after checking my mail. Looking out at the front door, I could see Beverly entering the building. I decided to hold the elevator door for the instigator.

Stone-faced, Beverly looked at me briefly as she entered the elevator. I pressed the button for the floor we both live on. When we reached our floor I let her exit the elevator first. I turned left and Beverly turned right. She reached her apartment without having to slowly say, “A-s-s-h-o-l-e.”

You know what?  I think I’m going to call this progress.

 
 
 
 
 

 

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