Natural Selection

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I say it all the time. I mutter it under my breath as I sweep their discarded takeaway boxes off the front step and follow their trail of spit to the overflowing dustbins.    

I say it as I turn the volume up of the television to mask the techno beat throbbing through the thin wooden walls. It’s never enough to fully blot out their voices spouting monotone bullshit over the top of it. They think one hour in a recording studio would make them famous but I bet they can’t even spell their own names. 

I’ll kill ‘em, I say, as I clamber over the dozens of bikes that block my door and are now locked in a grimy battle of spokes and handlebars.  

I’ve been saying it for so long it’s begun to sound as meaningful as a whistle or a grunt. But today as I lie in the bath that’s supposed to relieve my aching muscles after a day shifting boxes, and my neighbours start to pound on their own door, kicking and banging because they don’t have a key and whoever is in the flat is already too stoned to hear them, I submerge myself deeper into the steaming water, and I think, what if I really did kill them?

I took a Bible Studies course back when I had time to fill. The tutor was a gentle man but some of the other students said there was an ugly story behind his limp. I didn’t want to know about it because there are only so many secrets a man can keep and by that point I was already bursting. 

The tutor used to quote Jesus all the time. ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself,’ he’d say. But Jesus was a nomad. He wandered from place to place doing his speeches and telling his stories which meant his neighbours were only ever temporary. Even I could deal with bad neighbours if I knew they weren’t going to be around forever.

There are supposed to be just three of them upstairs; a washed-out woman with one yellow tooth, a skinny man with addiction in his eyes and a teenage son whose face is as grey as the ripped tracksuit bottoms that drag along the floor.  Judging by the number of bikes, they must be subletting to half the city. The teenager’s friends arrive in the middle of the night and stand outside my window yelling at the top of their voices because they’re too stupid to ring the doorbell.

Some mornings I find swollen rubbish bags lying on their side in the drive, inches from the bins. The first time it happened I thought maybe a fox had dragged it out and left it there but then I thought a fox would’ve torn it apart. I looked up at the top window and realized the lazy bastards had thrown their rubbish down from the second floor. I’d only moved in a few days before and I was sure that at any moment they were going to appear and put it apologetically in the bin. It had been a one off, I thought; the teenager was seeing if he had any aim. When no one came, I picked it up and put it in the bin myself which I wasn’t happy about because one thing I’m picky about is clean hands. I scrub my hands red raw if I have to touch other people’s filth.

The next day there was another reeking bag of rubbish in the middle of the drive.

If natural selection was allowed to run its course my neighbours wouldn’t survive. But instead of catching a disease or dying of hunger they get rewarded a free house and bonus money each time they reproduce. They also get labelled ‘the underclass’, which lets them off taking any responsibility for what happens in their lives. The truth is cruel; I know all about it. I’ll be the first to admit someone should’ve sterilized my mother after the mess she left me in. They said I had blistering sores all over my body and an eye infection that could’ve left me blind. 

If they’re going to dish out rewards so easily then I should get one for turning my life around. Instead I get the honour of having to struggle to keep a roof above my head. 

Privileged people write sob stories in the papers about how tough some people must have had it to turn out so bad. They write about cokehead mothers and abusive fathers. Well I didn’t have it on a plate either but that doesn’t mean I can’t grasp the simple concept of putting rubbish in a bin.           

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