Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A lot of crazy people live in Philly. Even if you're normal, you're going to have to deal with crazy neighbors when you live here. Where normal neighbors keep to themslves, crazy neighbors make their presence known in increasingly intrusive ways until you’re finally forced to keep it real and tell them to mind their own business. Then there are the sleepers—the neighbors that seem normal and low key for months until one day they smell weed coming from your apartment and come by to ask for a puff. They appear like the most harmless guys in the world, but I learned long ago that shit can get crazy when you blaze with sleepers.
Several years ago, my buddies Sour Joe and Machio lived in an apartment on the second floor of a row house near Girard College in Philly. Parking around there was a bitch, so if I found a decent spot I stayed over for hours to blaze and play video games in their living room. One night the three of us were playing a golf video game and passing around a joint when someone knocked on the door. Sour Joe opened the door. A heavy set dude wearing a white T-shirt, long mesh shorts, and a Phillies hat—the typical uniform of Philly’s white guys—stood outside. “Hey, I’m Kyle from right downstairs. Just wondering…” he said before trailing off and spotting Machio hitting the joint. “I was just wondering if I could blaze with you guys.” Sour Joe invited him in. “Great. Hang on. I’ll be right back,” Kyle said. Machio seemed a little skeptical: “I don’t want the neighbors knowing we smoke weed,” he said. “We don’t know this guy.” Sour Joe calmed him down, saying, “They all definitely already know that we smoke weed in here. The whole building smells like it when we’re home.”
Moments later Kyle returned with a fistful of pills. “Thanks for letting me smoke with you guys,” he said. “Here are some Vicodins as a little thank you. I have loads and loads of them downstairs.” He gave each of us two pills, and we received them graciously. They were the nice, fat kind. I rolled up another joint, and we started shooting the shit with Kyle. The banalities went on for several minutes; Kyle came off like a pretty regular guy. Halfway through the joint, he asked if he could bring his dog up. Sour Joe and Machio said, “Sure.”
As soon as he exited, Machio wondered aloud, “You think he’s going to get us more pills too?” I replied, “I hope so. I already ate one of mine.” Joe and Machio both gestured that they had as well. A few minutes went by, and then we heard a commotion downstairs. Kyle’s muffled voice came through the insulation: “Get off me bro! Get the fuck off me!” Sour Joe killed the music. Stunned, we eavesdropped to figure out what the hell was going on down there.
We didn’t hear a struggle downstairs. We heard one pair of feet dancing around heavily, as if someone was boxing with his shadow. “What are you doing in here? How’d you get in? Get off me!” Kyle yelled against this noise. Moments later he started yelling, “Leave my dog alone! Leave my dog alone!” We didn’t hear a dog barking or an intruder—Kyle’s was the only audible voice. “It sounds like he’s on the phone,” Sour Joe said. “Yeah, but why would he ask someone on the phone how they got into his apartment?” Machio asked. None of us had any answers.
Kyle’s self-contained melee went on for a few more minutes. We sat there dumbfounded, wondering if we should call the cops. Before we could figure out what to do, a door slammed and Kyle rushed up the stairs. We all froze and looked at each other—and then Kyle banged on the door. “Guys, there’s someone in my apartment!” he screamed. “Please let me in!”
No one moved. If Kyle was having a mental breakdown, there was no telling what would happen if we let him in. Nobody came up the stairs, so we knew Kyle was acting crazy. “Guys, my dog is down there. You gotta let me in!” he yelled, and then he started throwing his full weight against the door. Each hit was several seconds apart, and in between the hits, Sour Joe, Machio, and I went into battle mode. We jumped to our feet and grabbed things that could be used as a weapon: an umbrella, a tennis racket, and a coat rack. After a tense couple of minutes, Kyle stopped ramming the door. “OK. Guys, if you’re not going to let me in, could you please call the cops?” he asked. We put down our weapons. Sour Joe looked into the peephole and recoiled immediately. “He’s just standing out there staring into the other end of the peephole,” Sour Joe whispered.
We preferred not to call the cops—they make everything worse—but Kyle asked for them. We dialed 911, and then Kyle yelled, “Thank you! Tell them someone’s in my house!” We told the 911 operator that our neighbor might be having a home invasion. About 25 minutes later, a cruiser pulled up in front of the place. We were anxious waiting for them, but then the Vicodins kicked in and we were pretty relaxed. Two cops chatted casually as they entered the building. They came up the stairs and confronted Kyle. “And what are you doing standing out here?” a cop asked. “There’s someone in my house,” Kyle said. “I asked these guys to call the cops. You gotta help me. My dog is down there.” The two cops spoke briefly to each other. One of them told Kyle to go downstairs with the other cop. Then the first cop knocked on our door. We opened it, finding a large woman in a Philly PD uniform. She looked irritated. “What in the hell is happening here?” she asked. We calmly explained the whole thing—minus the weed and pills of course. She rolled her eyes at us and told us she’d be right back. We went to the window and saw the other cop cuffing Kyle and putting him in the back of a car. Kyle saw us and called up, “Tell them the truth, guys. Tell them I’m innocent!” Machio gave him a thumbs up.
The cops entered Kyle’s apartment and rummaged around for a bit. Eventually the lady cop walked back to our apartment to ask us a few questions. We took the opportunity to tell her that Kyle wasn't threatening us and that he just sounded like he was having a breakdown. He had acted pretty menacing at some points, but that was no reason to stick a cop on the poor guy, but the cop didn’t care. “Well, we're arresting him,” she said. “We found some things in his apartment, but I'll tell you what: If had neighbors like you, I’d probably lose my goddamn mind too.” She slammed the door shut and went on her way.
We breathed a sigh of relief, but at around 3:30, we heard a friendly knock at the door. Sour Joe opened it. Kyle stood there. He looked exactly as he had the first time we saw him that evening. “Hey guys, thanks for handling that situation for me,” he said. “Sorry if I scared you.” Sour Joe said, “No problem.” Kyle smiled and went back downstairs. We never crossed paths or smoked with him again.
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