Know Thy Neighbours by Slawka G Scarso

Photo by ThePowerCouple on Unsplash

You bump into them on the stairs, in the lift, while picking your post from the letterbox. Some you’ve known for years. You say hello, ask about their grandchildren, or their pets. Some still avoid your gaze but they will keep the door open for you if they see you carrying groceries. 

You know what they love to eat, or at least know how to cook, through the smells that come through their doors: recipes that disclose where they come from, or have travelled to, or simply feel confident enough to make on a Saturday night when they invite someone over. 

You hear them through the thin walls, the laughter, the crying, the screams as they’re playing monsters with their children, the thud of their shoes after a long day, the tiptoeing of a grandchild visiting upstairs, the failed attempts to play the violin, then the trumpet, then the piano, until they finally pick up the guitar. 

You know they have plants on their balcony, not because you saw them from the street, but because when they water them in the evening, your plants get soaked too. And so did your book that time you forgot it outside. 

You know them through their habits: what time they go to work, or to school, if they take their gym bag with them on a Tuesday. Whether they tend to run late, and take two steps at a time, or they take things as they go, and walk slowly, hanging on the rail. Whether they’re afraid of lifts, and would rather pant their way up. Whether they tend to forget something and return. Or they finish their phone conversations right before entering their flats, and whisper their goodbyes as they unlock the door, before saying “I’m back”, as cheerfully as they can muster. 

All these people, all these shared lives on a fleet of stairs or two. Conversations that end as soon as the door is closed, turning the key once, twice, three times. Locking their truths inside, leaving everyone behind. 

Just like you do. A neighbour to them too.

About The Author

Slawka G. Scarso is a copywriter and translator by day, with a passion for dogs, volcanoes and silence. Her words have appeared in Mslexia, Ellipsis Zine, Bending Genres, Spelk and others. She lives between Rome and Geneva with her husband and her dog, Tessa. More of her words on

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