The Woman Behind the Mirror

Posted on January 5, 2011


Every day I wake up to the smashing of construction noise. Men yelling orders, cranes lifting, saws buzzing. These noises are all welcome at 10:30a.m. to keep my from sleeping all day– the waitress gig runs fairly late in the evening sometimes and all that running about is really quite exhausting. So the construction starts around 9am, it wakes me around 10:30, and I’m in the bathroom washing my face by 10:45. So each morning around 10:45 I have my first encounter with the woman behind the mirror.

And I don’t mean me.

My next door neighbor is a camerawoman who has apparently lived in the same one bedroom apartment for ten years. This “staying” thing she does is completely unheard of to me, as I enjoy living in a new apartment almost every year. And perhaps there is something deeper in my needing to vacate each year, but I feel it is not as deep as her needing to stay year after year.

Perhaps I’m totally off base.

Each morning at 10:45, I wash my face, open the medicine cabinet to grab my toothbrush, and I shut the medicine cabinet with good force to ensure it closes. Each morning, precisely when I close my cabinet, she slams her shut. As if echoing me from across some deep abysmal chasm. I usually tilt my head curiously as I brush, and wonder if she is brushing directly behind me. If the construction starts her day like it does my own, if her boyfriend kisses her goodbye before he leaves and invites the pooch in for some morning snuggles.

Foamy mouthfuls of toothpaste go down the drain and I replace the brush in it’s home behind the door. As I shut that door to wash my face, another echoing shut. This time harder. Reminding me that she is still on the other side, maybe also moving onto the face washing portion of her morning. Face washed, back into the cabinet for some face lotion. Door shuts, hers slams shuts.

So I’ve started opening and shutting the door more than necessary to see if her morning routine is simply to mimic the noise I may be making, or if she actually has some purpose slamming these doors. Slamming away. SLAMMING AWAY. I will go shut the door now to see how she responds.


Mr. Man is convinced she is a hoarder. An A&E special.

I just heard the response slam. She must have had to come from another room to slam back.


There would be much less door slamming if I did not conduct experiments to test whether her door slamming was determined by my own. For every door I slam shut, one slams back at me. There has to be a lesson here. We have the second apartment in a fourplex, 1950’s Craftsman-style home with crown molding, pink bathroom tiles once designed to welcome men home from war and a built in china cabinet, and when we first moved in, the couple at the back (you can think of both Mr. Man and me and the back couple like the bread that surrounds the morning door-slammer) whispered to us that the meat of our fourplex sandwich had given them a list of “do’s and don’ts” when they first moved to their Craftsman home. Saying she had been here ten years and these were the things that were acceptable.

I cannot play higher power in another’s life. I can continue door shutting/slamming experiments only if I approach them humorously and scientifically, and not with expectations which will lead to resentment and pent-up anger. At what point does the game get old?

And is this a game to the woman behind the mirror? Or is my experiment driving her insane? I am afraid of asking her because I don’t want a “I’m going to tell you how to live next door to me list” to be hand delivered into or from shaking fingers.

Mr. Man said not to antagonize her. I informed him of my scientific reasons for conducting this experiment saying it is research into human behavior and psychology of door slamming. He told me I should discuss it with Jill instead of conducting this single blind experiment in which the dependent variable has no idea she is in an experiment. I said that is the point of an experiment.

He said I cannot treat the A&E neighbor like a rat.

I said I am not B.F. Skinner.

No doors were slammed between us. The experiment continues.