You mean it. That goddamn neighbor of yours is fightin’ with his new girlfriend again and you’re goddamn sick of the arguing and the hitting and the very loud sex that follows. Someone should take that woman aside after she slinks out of his apartment at half past two and tell her she doesn’t have to put up with it.
You think they’re strange. They both look so nice and successful and well-matched. Not the kind of people anyone thinks fight the way they do. Besides, he was always that sort of nice, cute guy that everyone wants to fix up with their sister. When your daughter came to visit for the weekend, she noticed him right away.
“He’s cute,” she said. “You should ask him for coffee sometime.”
Your daughter Jessica’s fifteen and boy-crazy. But she had a point, you think, looking at your very empty social calendar. He is very cute, he’s very sad, and until this girlfriend, sort of the streaky type when it comes to women. They’re there, they’re gone. Of course, before this one, there hasn’t been so much noise.
Thing is, they don’t look like the type to fight like this! You don’t understand it at all. But there they go again and dammit, you should just close the window. Still, it’s awfully hot to do that and you can’t afford air conditioning right now.
“What, you think if you don’t look at me, I’ll go away?” she asks. Maybe they’re not yelling. But you feel like they’re yelling. “I’m here and I am in your life.”
You can’t hear what he says. You imagine it’s something like, “No, you’re not” from the way she reacts.
“Fine!” she snaps. “Because it’s not me who shows up here every goddamn night. Because it’s not me who has a key. Because it’s not me–”
He says something you can’t hear quite right, but the tail end of it is, “–ask you to. Ever.”
Her voice drops. You can’t hear them for a while and maybe, just maybe, you think, they’ve gone from arguing to whatever they do when they don’t argue. You get up, surprised that you’ve been sitting there listening. That’s not very polite. Anyway, you need to do the dishes, so you wander over to the kitchen and open the window.
Something shatters against the wall and you jump. Guess they’re not quite done with the fighting.
“Goddammit, Wesley, that could have hit me!” she shrieks.
“That was the point,” he growls back. “Get out.”
You jump. It’s so awful. You don’t know why people want to do this to each other. She’d be better off without him. You’re going to tell her so, too, if you run into her.
“Why?” she replies, “You think you’re so high and mighty? You open the door. You fuck me every time I come here. You get off on this, too, and pretend that you don’t. Fuck you, Wes. At least I know what I am.”
You suddenly wish you could move away from the window and stop listening. But your hands are in the water, trying to find the dirty lasagna pan from last night and you’re straining closer to the window, dreading to know what they are.
“And what am I?” he asks her. She laughs and her voice drops, and you take a deep breath. Thank God. Maybe you can get some work down. You really need to complain to the super, because they’re disturbing the peace at the very least. You’re pretty sure he’s hitting her, though– God…she might be one of those people who want to be hit.
You remember there are people like that, even though you think it’s pretty unhealthy. But there are people out there like that. Like Isabella Rosselini in Blue Velvet–is it like that? She begs him to hit her. That’s what it is. She comes over and provokes him, begs him to hit her and it gets him going and–
You really need to bag the dishes for a while. Maybe go watch television or call your brother. You could balance your checkbook or read the book due at the library in three days you haven’t opened. You shouldn’t be listening to this.
You should not be listening to a very angry man shove his very bitchy girlfriend into a wall and fuck her. This is extremely tacky and wrong of you but you can’t help yourself for some reason. Usually you turn up the radio, but this time it’s like, you want to hear where this goes.
“Oh–oh God, yeah,” she wails. “Give it to me.”
Why are you still listening? And why are images starting to form in your head? You need to get laid, but you knew that from the moment you woke up this morning. There’s nothing sexy about what you’re imagining, anyway.
Her shirt’s torn open, you think, the bra thrown aside on the kitchen floor and he’s shoved her skirt up. She’s not the type who wears panties if she knows she’s coming to get good and fucked. They’re probably in her purse. You knew a girl who did that, your best friend in college. She’d take them off on the drive over just so they could be gone for him.
Walk away, you repeat to yourself over and over. You’re really going to as soon as you get the nasty baked-in crust. It’s so tacky. You’d be furious if it were you, but you’ve never been thrown against a kitchen wall and proceeded to be fucked with all the sound effects.
You don’t even know how people do it against walls. It’s got to be difficult.
“Oh, God, harder–like that, like that, like that!” she starts to scream and this time you manage to walk away a few steps. You’re not going to be able to sleep tonight anyway with the memory of that in your head.
You stumble into the living room and dammit, it sounds like it’s echoing. The entire world’s him giving it to her against the wall. At least you can’t hear the moaning and the screaming and the panting anymore. Maybe once you turn on the tv, it’ll be okay.
She’s coming and coming hard for him. You wish you couldn’t see it in your head, but once begun, the sexual imagination’s gotta have it in surround sound and HDTV quality. Yours does, anyway. You can see the way he’s got her against him, the marks she’s putting on his body, the bruises he’s putting on her thighs. That she wants him to put on her thighs.
Damn visual imagination. You’re embarrassed about this, you really are. Imagining how the people next door have sex. Jessica would be mortified. Moms–even non-custodial moms with Big Time Issues–don’t fantasize about sex. You bet her friend Tristan’s mom doesn’t. Your ex would suggest that maybe you two try it–and then he’d fuck it up, because he’s that kind of guy. Besides, you don’t want to do it that way. You’re not flexible enough or strong enough to be fucked like that.
The banging slows down (way to go for the lowest common denominator) and you manage to find the remote and turn on the tv. Jessica must have left it on the WB, because everyone is too young for you by at least fifteen years. But you’re used to that, and it’s just television. Not real. Not real like the inevitable post-coital fight is real, the one you can’t hear, but the one that always ends the same way. It’s the only time you hear him clearly during one of these entire affairs.
“Get out of my apartment, you–”
Tonight you’re surprised. She doesn’t leave. The door doesn’t slam shut. You strain to hear over the musical patter of the tv (you don’t want to turn it off and let them know you’re listening) and you think that maybe they’re silent. At least, you can’t hear anything.
You think they’re looking at each other, half-naked and hurting and wondering. You’ve been there, maybe not after being fucked like that, but you’ve been there. It’s the kind of moment–that weird sort of non- event–that changes relationships.
For the first time, she doesn’t leave the apartment. Not by the time you go to bed, anyway.
You wonder if you should call the police. You wonder if you should make sure she walks out in the morning safe and sound.
You wonder why it’s your business, and go to sleep.