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NOISES OFF

by

Colin Pink

Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved





I'VE ALWAYS HAD MY DOUBTS ABOUT THE GUY NEXT DOOR. I donít know why. I canít say exactly what it is. He looks normal enough, but thereís something about him. Something that rings alarm bells in my head, and makes me want to avoid contact with him. Not that we have much contact. None of the neighbours have much to do with one another in this place. It suits me. I donít want to be obligated. I donít want to have to waste time chatting to my neighbours on the stairs: monitoring the weather, or exchanging inane opinions about the news. We all keep ourselves to ourselves, and that suits me fine. Itís not as if they look like the kind of people Iíd like to get friendly with anyway; especially the guy next door. Thereís something about him.

And then there are the noises. Funny noises. At funny times. Often at night. I lie there in bed and try to make them out; I listen intently, like a code breaker trying to decipher a message. But itís very difficult. It seems to me to consist of strange bumping and scraping noises. Itís as if heís rearranging the furniture. Thatís the only thing I can think it might be. But these noises happen regularly, as if the guy was obsessed with rearranging his furniture in the middle of the night. Weird.

Of course, I attribute these noises to my neighbour. But itís hard to say exactly where they come from. Sound can be so deceptive. Often Iíve been convinced a sound was coming from one direction only to subsequently discover I was completely wrong, and the source was, in fact, from an entirely different direction. Thatís sound for you. But I still think it comes from his apartment; or maybe the one below. There isnít one above, so that rules out one possibility; unless itís someone on the roof, which is highly unlikely, though has been known to happen occasionally. Iím not sure what all this adds up to at the end of the day, but Iím inclined to think the noise does comes from my neighbour. Iím less certain about the nature of the noise, but it does sound like large objects, such as furniture, being moved around, in the middle of the night.

I donít sleep well at the best of times and I can tell you these midnight furniture fests are no joke. I listen out for voices. I think I can detect them, but theyíre hard to identify. There seem to be two; a deeper voice and a higher pitched voice; like a man and a woman. Possibly they are arguing, though they might be getting passionate with one another, itís hard to tell, just listening in. I canít make out any words, just tones. Sometimes thereís a whimpering noise, as if someone was in pain, but it could equally be an expression of pleasure; perhaps theyíre just having noisy sex. Whatever it is it keeps me awake.

Sometimes I think I should say something. But what can one say? Hey, would you kindly keep the noise down. Why do you have to rearrange your furniture at 1 a.m.? Donít make love so noisily. Itís embarrassing. Itís just not the kind of thing you can bring up out of the blue.

I see him occasionally. But I never see anyone else. People seem to go in but never come out. Is that strange? Maybe not. After all he lives here, the chances of me encountering him in the hall or on the stairs (I never use the elevator, you never know who might get in) is far greater than those of bumping into any of his visitors. If I knew the other neighbours better I could ask them about him. I could ask them if they heard any strange noises late at night, emanating from his apartment. But I donít know them well enough. Theyíd think I was a snoop, checking up on people; they might wonder if I was checking up on them too. It could get awkward.


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