*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a friend, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
My friend married a man who was popular with the ladies. She knew about his past, of course, but she didn't realize how his past would come back to haunt her until she found out why his landlord kept looking at her through the window.
Her husband lived in a small bachelor's apartment. When she married him, she moved into the apartment with him. It was a temporary arrangement until they found a place of their own.
My friend had never spoken with the landlord, and her husband didn't have a lease. He just paid the rent in cash every month, and that was it.
The apartment was far from her friends and family, and she felt lonely especially since her husband worked long hours and didn't come home until late at night when she was already thinking about bedtime. To pass the hours, my friend would often sit outside on the front porch, and that's when she noticed the landlord peering out the window at her.
"He seemed nosy," my friend told me. "I had never even met him face to face, and yet he was always staring at me from inside his apartment. Sure, it was his house, but that didn't give him an excuse to stare."
One day when she left her apartment with a basket of dirty laundry and saw him staring at her again, she had to suppress the urge to shout at him. I'm going to the laundromat. Is that okay with you? But she didn't shout. She left quietly as she always did.
When she returned home with her clean folded laundry in a basket, the landlord met her at the front door. She stopped in her tracks and looked directly into the face of the man in the window, only now he was blocking the doorway.
In a thick Polish accent, the man asked my friend if she was coming or going. "You come? You go?" he asked.
"What?" she asked. My friend was genuinely perplexed. "I don't know what you mean."
"Are you going or staying?" he asked in his heavily accented English. "Stay? Go?" He gestured toward the stairs, toward the sidewalk, and toward her laundry basket in big sweeping circles.
She had no idea what the man was talking about.
It took a few tries for my friend to understand what the landlord was asking her. Finally, she realized he was trying to tell her that he'd seen so many women coming and going from the upstairs apartment that he didn't know if she was planning to stay. She was humiliated; it was so embarrassing.
My friend held up her left hand and displayed her gold wedding ring. "Staying," she said slowly. "Married. I live here now with my husband."
The man nodded his head in satisfaction and stepped aside to let her back into the house. She and her husband found a new apartment not long after that incident, not because of the landlord. They just needed a bigger place to stay.