Upstairs and downstairs

I fill my lungs with air and expel – enjoying the tranquillity of a second, that turns to a minute, and then another and I close my eyes willing myself to sleep before the next onslaught, that shatters another night as I see sleep elude me again and I reach for the ear plugs and stick them as far as I can into my tymphanic membrane.

I think of James. We work together. He told me how he ended up in A&E one night because he rammed the ear plugs he brought to drown out the nocturnal noises of his neighbours, so far into his ears that he burst an ear drum.

I fiddle about with the thing in my ear, and catch the fraction of a moan followed by another and hear a deep voice that echoes and echoes round my room and pierces through my defences and my patience, already hanging by a sheer thread of resignation backed up by two years of silent embedded fury.

I went out and got myself a diary to record for posterity, for myself and for the officer at the housing, the different sounds and noises I had complained about. They wanted proof you see, just in case they needed to go to court.

I was so happy when I moved in here. I had been on the council waiting list for fifthteen years because I couldn’t find anyone that I liked enough to want to live with or have a baby with me. Besides Ive always been strange like that, wanting my own space, the ability to know exactly where I will find my toilet seat when I plonk myself onto it in the morning, that my toothpaste will not be strangled out of shape and my controls are exactly where I left them in the morning.

Don’t come visiting without telling me.

You see, I keep a mattress in my sitting room. I usually keep it under my bed for visitors but when the action gets going downstairs I set it up, so I can sleep. Sometimes the noise gets so much that it travels all the way upstairs, through the wooden doors and boards and the wall with the slightly peeling wallpaper that I have been meaning to change since I moved in. So I know when they are frying plantain, cooking a stew with garlic, or smoking weed.

I know when they wake up, when they go to the toilet, when they cook, wash clothes or mate. That is was what led me to take the course of action I did. I mean what would you do if your neighbour constantly put the washing machine on at 2am every day?

It’s these old houses. You hear everything, smell everything, and see everything about your neighbours. A lot of things you would rather not know. A lot of things they would rather you did not know.

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