Do You Hear What I Hear?

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One downside to my new apartment is that I miss the neighbors I had when I lived in a condo. This isn’t because I actually KNEW them, of course, being hermitical and frightened of people. Typically, my only association with neighbors is hearing the sounds they make through the walls, floors and ceilings we share. And the fact is, I liked the sounds my condo neighbors made more than I like the sounds my apartment neighbors make.

At the condo, the master bedroom of the unit behind me was on the other side of my bedroom wall. That other unit housed an amorous couple who were not, shall we say, quiet in their appreciation for one another. I believe their bed must have been exactly on the other side of the wall from my bed, as I was able to hear them without wanting to, one time even being awakened in the middle of the night by their fervor.

I gathered from the frequency and duration of their episodes that they were newlyweds, and the fact that it was always after 2 a.m. when they commenced led me to conclude that they were not just newlyweds, but unemployed, too. Even if a couple were still this spirited in their second year of marriage, surely they would at least get to it earlier.

One night two of my friends and I were sitting in my room, talking and laughing, and the sex neighbors banged on the wall and yelled, “Keep it down!” Keep it down?! ME?! These unemployed newlyweds had a lot of nerve, let me tell you.

The near-nightly romps went on for a few weeks, to the point that I became bored with it. I’d be getting ready for bed, and I’d hear them start up, and I’d think, “Well, there they go again.” And then suddenly they stopped. Several nights passed with no commotion from the other side of the wall. I became morbidly curious. Were there problems in the marriage? Was one of them sick? Was one of them pregnant (the wife, probably)? I wanted to stop by their condo in a neighborly fashion and make small talk, just to see if I could determine what had quenched their passion.

But I couldn’t do this, of course, because I didn’t know them. I had never seen them — at least, not that I knew of. Anytime I saw a couple around the complex whose specific dwelling place I did not know, I would eye them suspiciously, trying to determine if they might be my sex neighbors. Part of me didn’t really want to know what they looked like, of course. What if it turned out they were old and/or hideous and/or immense? That would make my overhearing them horrifying, rather than mildly diverting.

Now I live in an apartment building. Due to the vagaries of construction and planning, there are no tenants on either side of me. Across the hall, though, is a Mexican family who on a recent Saturday night had one dickens of a fiesta that lasted loudly until well past 3 a.m. I couldn’t hear the noise from my bedroom, but in the living room it was noticeable, and in the hall it was deafening. Apparently it was extremely loud in the Mexicans’ next-door neighbor’s apartment, too, because a pajama-clad young woman emerged from there and began banging on the Mexicans’ door at around 2:30. I heard this banging and went to my peephole to see what drama would unfold. What I saw was the poor woman’s banging fall on deaf ears: The music inside the apartment was so raucous, they could not even hear their neighbor pounding on their door. Eventually she gave up and went back to her apartment, perhaps afraid, as so many Utahns are, of even quiet Mexicans, let alone boisterous ones.

The noise of the Mexicans is not a problem for me, but the noise of the people directly above me is. There are at least three persons living up there, possibly a family and possibly just a loose confederation of people who shout at each other a lot. Shouting seems to be their only method of communication, and there are no hours of the day or night when shouting is deemed inappropriate in their home. I imagine even wakes or prayer services, if held in apartment 411, would be ear-splitting.

The woman in the bedroom above mine has her alarm clock set to play CDs to wake her up in the morning, so loudly that it often wakes ME up in the morning, too, which is very considerate of her but wholly unnecessary, as I have my own alarm clock, thank you, not to mention better taste in music. Plus, she gets up at obscene hours like 9 a.m. or even 8 a.m., if you can imagine.

When she is home, she is always a) yelling and b) in her bedroom. I picture her as an 800-pound woman who is confined to her bed but must maintain a household, so she barks orders to and has shouted conversations with her children/staff/nurses, who are invariably in other rooms of the apartment. Her shouting seldom takes an argumentative or angry tone; it is simply the way she communicates.

One time it was 3 in the morning and I heard the TV on up there, and I heard children’s voices. So the 800-pound shouter is evidently a bad mother, too.

The oddest thing about the people above me is that they are, by the sound of their voices, an African-American family (or commune, whichever), and yet I have frequently heard the sounds of Depeche Mode and the Cure coming from their stereo. Far be it from me to generalize, but do black people listen to ’80s synth-pop? I am fascinated by the diverse and interesting people who make up this crazy world of ours. Maybe someday I’ll actually meet one of them.

I like the IDEA of knowing all my neighbors, of making small talk in the hallways and getting one another's mail when we're out of town and all that. But to actually get to that point, we'd at some point have to be officially introduced, and I don't know how that happens. So I continue knowing nothing about them beyond what I infer from my eavesdropping (which isn't really "eavesdropping" if you're not doing it on purpose).

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