City Livin’

 “I dunno, I just feel like I’m always walking a line between minding my own business and being a good person. Like, in the city, you always have to worry about that,” Aidy said, brushing her dark bangs to the side of her face.

“I don’t get it.” Justin took a drag off his e-cig and exhaled a long cloud of vapor.

“Dude, I guess what I’m trying to say is that in the city, we’re all piled on top of each other. None of us really has our own space. We hear our neighbors through the walls. We hear the people on the sidewalk through our windows. There’s always an awareness that something is going on out there. And by living in a city, people have a responsibility to stay tuned in, to make sure that whatever is going on is, like, on the up and up.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s a responsibility. I mean, there’s only so much a person can do. I sleep with ear plugs in so that I don’t hear the ruckus on the street. Does that make me bad person who should be expelled to the suburbs?”

“Of course not. That’s what I meant about minding my own business. I don’t want to hear my neighbors have sex. Like, ew. So I try to tune it out and give them the illusion of privacy. But when there’s something that might be wrong, I’m torn between valuing privacy and wanting to help.”

“Do you have an example?”

“Okay, what if you hear a dog whining day after day and it sounds like it’s suffering? Do you try to see if it’s okay, or if it’s chained up and neglected outside? Are you an asshole if you call Animal Control to check on it, and it turns out to just be an overly vocal, annoying dog?”

Aidy let her gaze wash over her iPhone’s screen. She scanned the Spotify playlist and queued up some Kanye.

“I mean, what’s the harm in calling Animal Control? That’s their job…”

“So maybe that wasn’t the best example. What about when you see a girl sprinting down the street in the early morning hours, wearing just a long t-shirt and flip flops. Like full-on running. Is she just a wacko who hit the crack pipe a little too hard, or is she running away from a captor who, like, just sexually assaulted her or something?”

Justin took a sip of PBR before walking to the recycle bin to throw away the many cans that had accumulated. “A little overdramatic, don’t you think?”

“No. I’ve actually seen that. And I wondered what to do. Do I call the cops? I mean, she’s already gone and I have no idea where she even came from, so what are they even gonna do?”

“I guess you just have to trust your gut instinct with this stuff,” Justin said before adding, “and not be paranoid.”

“I know. I just want to help people when they need it. And I want to think that someone would help me if I needed it.”

“Well, you can’t control – or maybe control is the wrong word. You can’t rely or presume that anyone is going to do anything.”

“Exactly. That’s the problem. We get numb, living in the city. When I first moved here, I’d always carry some pocket change to give to the homeless people I’d pass. I’d look at them and wonder about their families. About what happened to them that they’re sleeping in sub-zero weather on a street grate. Now, I barely even notice them. They’re just a part of the landscape. Like background noise at an Eagles game.”

“They say that if a woman is getting raped, she should yell ‘fire’ to get people to help her.”

“Yeah, and what kind of bullshit is that?” Aidy said. “Like nobody wants to help someone who’s being attacked?”

“Well, a fire could spread to their house, so people have more of an incentive to take action, maybe? Or just people being afraid of getting hurt or killed. It’s dangerous to jump into an assault situation – they’d be putting their life at risk for someone they don’t even know.”

“But they don’t even call 9-1-1. They pull out their iPhones and take pics or video. They’ll Periscope it, but they won’t do anything to get help.”

“That’s a little extreme. I think most people would probably call 9-1-1 before they start Periscoping.” Justin chuckled at his joke. “Just kidding, jeez,” he said, noticing Aidy’s eye roll.

“I feel like I would try to help. And I’m just like a 5’1” girl. But I couldn’t just not do anything.”

“Okay, so what about this? You’re home by yourself at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night. All of the sudden, someone is pounding on your front door. Just hammering away at it. You peek out the window and see a woman on your doorstep. She yells ‘help’ but you don’t see anything going on outside or anyone else around. What do you do? I mean, she could need your help, but what if this is how she gets inside your place as part of a home invasion?”

“That’s bleak,” Aidy said, throwing some Jay-Z onto the playlist.

“Yeah, but it happens. It’s an actual strategy for home invasioners. Invasionists?”

“How ‘bout people who commit home invasions?”

“Fine, but you didn’t answer my question. What do you do?”

“I know what you should do,” said a red-headed woman at the end of the bar. “You should stop waxing philosophical about these imaginary scenarios when you have a real-life person in front of you who has been waiting to order a drink for 10 minutes. Or do I have topound on the bar and scream for help?”

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