It started out with just one note.
Tsugumi was never one for confrontation. She preferred to smooth out things the best she could on her own and especially didn't want to bother her neighbor next door. Sometimes it got too noisy on the other side of the wall, so Tsugumi put in her earbuds to drown out the sounds. Other times, she smelled bacon leaking through the drafty door frame, so she bought an air freshener and eventually broke out a large bottle of Febreze. No matter the issue, she just wanted peace, and peace often came in the form of sleeping in earplugs just after a mini Twitter rant.
However, things escalated when that same neighbor started dropping bowls and other kitchenware early in the morning. Tsugumi cracked her eyes open. The metal sound reverberated through her body and she screeched slightly into her blanket. Being forced to be up at eight on a Sunday was the fastest way to irate a pacifist. Even after fifteen minutes, the rustling still hadn't died down, and she was getting desperate.
She popped in an aspirin and hyped herself up to knock on their door for the first time in months since she'd moved in. She had on her best squishy insoles and the best bitch face she learned from her friend Anya, but chickened out when she heard movement in the hallway. A jingle of keys, and then a heavy sigh later, the noise died down as if it was never there to begin with.
What now? Tsugumi thought, twiddling her fingers and still energized from annoyance. Even if she was ready to give them a stern talking to, no one was home, and if she caught them in the common area, someone was bound to see the both of them.
Eventually, she traded her shoes for slippers and sank into her couch in defeat. With her phone in her hand and energy not quite dispelled, she sent out a call for help through her tweets. Almost immediately, the replies came in.
Bang yur pans! See how they liike it LMAO ?
Call your landlord?? Complain girl! You live there too!
Shove a cactus up their ass
Tsugumi grimaced. Of course, only the sleep deprived or aggressive friends would be awake right now. It was almost a lost venture until she saw a mention pop up while she scrolled through new K-pop accounts. The new message said:
Write a note… stick it on the door? Let them know u are being bothered… it won't end until u do
She paused and considered it slowly. The advice wasn't wrong and the person who wrote it tended to give Tsugumi good vibes. She wouldn't be directly telling her neighbor off, so if it went wrong, she could hide away and pretend it never happened. On the other hand, if all went well, she could sleep and let her ears have a break.
Alright, she thought. I'll do it. I'll tell 'em. I'll write a note. I'ma do it.
She grabbed a sticky note and a pen to jot down her thoughts. It took two tries to get it right, and she made sure to sign only her name and not her apartment number. Wait— Tsugumi scratched out her name and replaced it with the number. That way, it was anonymous but— oh no, they'll know where I live then. She crumpled the note and worked on her third try.
Once she signed it with just the date and time and "from a sleepless neighbor," she darted out to place the sticky note on the outside of her neighbor's door and returned just as fast. Thirty minutes and a cup of coffee later, Tsugumi heard signs that the person had gotten home. They fumbled with their keys and went inside, leaving Tsugumi a nervous wreck and a bundle of anxiety.
What if they're mad? What if it gets worse? What if they tell the manager that someone is harassing them and threatening them with notes and I'll be forced to find a new home? Her spiraling was interrupted by another round of shuffling, the door opening and closing too fast for it to be a person leaving— did I get a reply?
Tsugumi waited for a few minutes, posting her thoughts aloud on Twitter to share until she felt it was safe to leave and check. She tried to be as soundless as she could, leaving her escape way open while she snuck a few feet down the creaky hall. As she thought, there was a new color on the rust red door aside from her yellow sticky note. The new square was blue, and it stood side by side with her original message, reading, "I'm so sorry! I got a new puppy on Saturday and he likes to make messes. Promise to be quiet… or as much as I can! — Clay."
She perked up. A puppy? She ran to her desk and left a new note immediately.
It only took a couple of minutes for the person to indicate that a new note was left. Tsugumi checked back as soon as she heard the door close, this time with a sticky note pad and pen in hand.
"Yes! I can airdrop you a picture if you want. He's cute but he isn't house trained :( — Clay"
"That would be so nice!" Tsugumi wrote back. "I'll turn on my airdrop right now."
It didn't occur to her that she could've simply knocked to see the puppy herself, nor did it occur to Clay that he could've done the same. They were too excited about the little puppy that all logic went out the window. A few exchanges later through sticky notes, Tsugumi asked what his breed was. Clay responded that he was a busky (beagle and husky mix)— the dog, not Clay himself. Clay was a full-fledged human boy— man. Tsugumi laughed and didn't know that her chime could be heard through the thin walls while she heard little puppy whines since she knew what to listen for.
It was too bad that she had a brunch date hastily set up for the rest of the morning because she found her neighbor to be pleasant after all. It was almost bittersweet when she told him as such, carrying sticky notes out with her in her purse as she went out. She met with the very friends who she was complaining to online, clearing up the ill feelings, especially since she had been distracted for the last hour or so. They cooed at the picture of the puppy that Tsugumi received but warned her that it didn't excuse the months of noisiness that Tsugumi had to endure.
"I don't think he did it on purpose," Tsugumi said, being as forgiving as her friends knew she was. "Maybe he's kind of clumsy?"
"Who plays country music at night when people are trying to sleep, though?" Anya tutted. She sipped on her strawberry smoothie. "A freak does."
Tsugumi made a calming motion with her hands and laughed nervously. "Now, now. Was Meme unable to come today?"
"Don't avoid the subject, Tsugumi," sighed Anya. "But yes, I think she fell asleep right after she tweeted you the cactus thing."
"Hmm, too bad." Tsugumi continued to cut into her brunch, but her other friend to her right spoke up.
Kim said, "Anya's got a point." She flicked her fork at Tsugumi for emphasis. "You think he's just clueless?"
"Or forgetful?" Anya added.
"A dumb-dumb?" Kana joined in. It was her second sentence that morning, right after "morning."
It felt nice to have friends who unconditionally had her back, but Tsugumi wondered if she had been too hasty in judging Clay. When she parted ways with the group just before noon struck, she thought a bit more about her neighbor. Was he loud and mischievous, or did he talk to himself for company? Did he knowingly bother people with his music, or did he want to fill the silence at night?
By the time Tsugumi reached home, she checked on Clay's door to see if there was an answer to her quick explanation about brunch. There was hardly any empty space left at head-height while the sticky notes there began to feel familiar. Tsugumi saw a reply in blue after all. It read, "Sounds fun! Hope you enjoy — Clay."
She reached into her purse to draw out a sticky note, but she hesitated, taking her hand back out empty. There wasn't much that she could say to that sort of response, and she didn't want to continue bothering him. Though the morning was fun, it was also strange— exhilarating, almost. But the one thing Tsugumi tried to do was to keep the peace. She readjusted her bag and walked back to her apartment, unlocking the door for what she felt was the last time for the day since she didn't have any more plans to leave again.
However, before she could enter, she heard the neighbor next door open their door and saw a man approaching her from the corner of her eye, puppy in his arms.