Jared the Menace

Jay North and Jeannie Russell illustrate how the 1959 television series of 'Dennis the Menace' references the original newspaper cartoon. (Denver Post via Getty Images)

After never knowing a moment’s privacy, Sloane Crosley finally moves into the one-bedroom apartment of her dreams in the city that never sleeps.

And then she never sleeps again, because all of her windows face Jared:

The real draw of the neighborhood was the quiet. And not just any kind of quiet. Here, in the heart of Manhattan, was a pod of that suburban silence that had eluded me as a child. You could hear a pin drop in my bedroom—on the bed. Early mornings, I listened to the heckling of seagulls that had strayed inland from the Hudson River. On warm evenings, a cellist sat on the street corner with his case open. When it rained, water pelted the leaves outside my enchanted tree house.

And then one day the leaves dropped and Jared came out. Jared lived in the town house directly behind my apartment. He must have been on summer
vacation or touring Europe by colonial rickshaw when I moved in. Jared was between fifteen and eighteen years old. It was impossible to tell. I could never get a good read on his height, as his resting state was slouched in a lawn chair,
watching viral videos on his phone at full volume. And I never heard him say stuff like “Looks like I can be legally tried as an adult now” despite being someone for whom the distinction was clearly relevant.

How do I begin to explain my relationship with this creature? Is it a relationship if you’ve never met? Certainly this is an acceptable dynamic online, but played out in real life it’s called stalking. All five of the windows in my apartment faced Jared’s house. And, for as many years, I heard every word this kid said.

I started keeping a notebook by my bed:

Jared spits grapes into the air and tries to catch them in his mouth.

Jared feels like he’s seen some pictures of your dick from the eighth grade.

Jared has decided tequila gives you diarrhea. Jared thinks this is some Cheech and Chong shit. Jared has discovered jazz.

By documenting his activities, I thought perhaps I could trick myself into thinking I had signed up for this. Like a scientist observing a nocturnal creature. Or I’d try to offset the hot rage coursing through my veins by envisioning scenarios in which Jared’s existence served to bolster mine. You know what I need? I need to Windex every surface of my apartment at 4 A.M. Thanks, Jared, for saving me the trouble of setting an alarm or buying drugs of my own.

The woman who lived in the apartment next to mine did not have the box seats I did, but she did have a four-month-old baby. I asked her if the people in the back ever bothered her.

“Oh, you mean Jared?” she groaned. “When we moved in, he was still a little kid. I thought he was so cute, playing in the back yard. But you know what they say about tiger cubs.”

“What do they say?”

“Don’t adopt tiger cubs.”

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