Why do I suddenly think of that chilly Boston evening forty or so years ago? A friend of mine named Tim and I were visiting a married couple, friends of his. She played hostess while her husband stayed glued to his recording of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. “His favorite,” she told us.
What I particularly remember is that I was trying to get in a joke I’d made up. The gist was that a psychologist’s patient had been diagnosed with a newly recognized neurosis: the apartment complex. But the right moment didn’t come up in Tim’s friends’ home, any more than it has since.
Walking back to the T, I explained it to Tim. “You know, like an inferiority complex.” It plays on our horror of a collection of uniform, featureless, monolithic residential buildings. He said the idea was clever. He didn’t laugh.
What seems to trigger that ancient memory is that I’m about to play a CD all my friends would despise. I feel like that husband shutting out his wife and their visitors as he listened to his favorite opera recording. In turn, I’m taken back to the joke I can’t make funny. Funny thing is, I still do.
Come to think of it, “apartment complex” might be a suitable name for the neuroses millions are suffering from as we quarantine against COVID-19. Even less funny.