I just finished talking to my sister in Germany who is going through some really tough existential shit, like not knowing if she will be able to keep her apartment or where her money is coming from, because bureaucracy is like a fucking sloth, as slow and unpredictable, but definitely not that cute and cuddly. She worked for thirty years as a nurse, but now, due to her hearing loss (almost 90% in the left ear and 50% in her right ear), she cannot continue, as much as it hurts her. On top of that, her narcissistic ex-husband canceled all her additional pensions and 401K, spent her inheritance, talked her into getting tons of loans, and left her to battle bankruptcy on her own, and moseyed on with his next “soulmate’, while she is surviving on less than a 1000 euros a month, which expires in June.

She is desperate, on the verge of panic, and nine hours time difference means that I am not even close to emulating her level of inebriation (no matter how mild) at (my) noon and (her) 9 pm. She is deep into Leonard Kohen and I am still chirping with the morning doves. My level-headedness does not match her desperation. I understand her fears, as I experienced them some eight years ago when I was separating from my sociopathic ex-husband of fourteen years. When you are on the bottom, swimming in the dark, unable to remove the muck from your eyes, it’s hard to see even one ray of light, let alone a future that brings something more luminous. The pandemic has made her battle harder, as she is alone, not able to travel, not able to be with her loved ones, and still hanging in limbo, waiting for some unknown entity to decide the future of her life. It’s been a year and a half since she found out that she is pretty much destitute and that the man she adored for fourteen years is a con artist, a narcissist, and a criminal.

We have been talking almost daily since she found out, quite inadvertently, that her whole life is a sham, eighteen months ago. I usually sit on the balcony, with my feet up on the rail, drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of day. We figured out that something in our childhood might be amiss as all three of us have married sociopaths – I didn’t know until a Facebook friend (thanks, Susan!) told me that I was living in an abusive relationship. I talked to her for two hours that day; she gave me resources, and the rest was history. Since then, I researched everything I could to figure out the whys…

My sister found out in a different way. Her ex was gone scuba-diving in French Polynesia and she wanted to surprise him by organizing their paperwork. And while doing that, she uncovered that she was living in a lie for fourteen years. She dug up the paperwork showing he was forging her signature, writing emails in her name, representing her while lying, and acting as her guardian even he did not have the “power of attorney” privileges. Many government agencies and banks dealt with him instead of her, trusting just his charm and nothing else.

When he returned, she kicked him out and never looked back. But her heart and soul were wounded and she needed to understand why. There is no “why”. At least not for us who are empathetic and sensitive. And he left a mountain of debt and destruction in his wake, walking away unencumbered, leaving her to pay off their debt, just like he did with his ex-wife.

Our almost daily “therapy” sessions are mostly conducted on my balcony. I get to prop my feet on the railing, look at the birds while we talk, and enjoy being outside. And just like my sister, I am also hard of hearing, although my hearing loss is not that serious as my sister’s. It’s not a surprise that when we talk, we are louder than most. Not only because we are both deaf, but because we are dealing with deep emotions, hurt feelings, and desperation.

We speak in Serbian, of course. To some, the language sounds harsh. It might look like we are fighting. There are a lot of guttural consonants and not enough vowels. But even if we are disagreeing, even if my voice is louder, my message is clear: I love my sister and I will do anything I can to help her.

Today we finished our talk around 2:00 pm. I was just moving inside from the balcony when my building manager called me. I answered and what he told me enraged me. He said that someone in the building complained that they cannot relax in their living room because I talk too loudly on the balcony.

I know my neighbors on the right and the ones underneath. I’ve lived here for eight years and nobody ever complained about us – and, believe me, we had some really LOUD fights throughout the years (my girls and I are sometimes not considerate when the passions fly high!)

The guy 0n my right does my taxes and we are pretty chill. The people on the flood below are friends and we help each other. The apartment on the left was empty until a few days ago and the three young guys are still moving in. I waved to them from the balcony and they waved back. I really don’t think they complained.

So who could not relax in their living room while I talked loudly on my balcony?

I have two theories. The first one is that there was a neighbor out on the street (under my balcony, while I was talking to my sister in Serbian), who is xenophobic. I have no clue who that might be. No matter what, that’s sad.

The second is that my building manager feels slighted that I do not want to date him (yes, we had a really awkward encounter a few years ago when he invited me into his apartment after I was coming home from salsa dancing; we had a drink and he tried to kiss me, which I refused and left. He called the next day apologizing.) And that I smoked on my balcony for a few months recently (yes, I did) and he is judging me, not knowing that I am really hearing-impaired.

It doesn’t matter what, I am fucking furious! I work hard, I pay my rent on time, I am responsible, hard-working, reliable, and conscientious. And I can’t talk to my sister in Serbian, on my own balcony (OK, not my own, but I pay rent to call it my own), without “bothering” someone? So fucking NOT RIGHT!