Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Neighbors: A Brief Tale Of Irritation

"Goddammit, I'm working here!"  It was two in the morning.  He should have been sleeping, but he probably couldn't do any of that, either.  Some distractions were simply too profound.

The sound was familiar and unmistakable.  He stared at the ceiling for a while, seeing nothing (except the ceiling), but hearing more than he needed; the furtive creaks, the muffled voices, the unaccountable changes in pace and tempo.  He could not work, he could only stare.  But why stare?  Why bother?  Creak.  Creak.  Creak.  Creak.  Creakcreakcreakcreak...

"Goddammit, got to finish this."  The work didn't need to be finished.  It wasn't really work: it was strictly voluntary, pro bono, for the good of the people.  Just like procreation.  And there he went, thinking about procreation at a time like this!  He had work to do; he worked harder.  What did she look like?

A train sounded in the distance, and that was just ridiculous.  He imagined that he could hear drums.  He couldn't, but suppose for a moment he could?  What the hell were they doing up there?  "What the hell are they doing up there?"  He knew what they were doing; somehow it just helped to imagine they were doing it in the middle of a massive drum circle.  A massive drum circle in their tiny little apartment.  Full of hippies taking drugs and eating brownies.  Brownies?  Special ones.  "I'd like some brownies," he thought.  Not the special ones, though, because they tasted like shit.  Where did the train fit into all of this?  Was the train even involved?  Of course not, because trains don't fit in apartments.  It didn't matter, he couldn't hear the drums anyway.  He wished he could.

It was two fifteen.  Was she pretty?  He focused on his typing.  He typed harder.  It was almost loud enough.  Two twenty.  Jesus Christ.  The woman said something, and he was irritated at the thought that he couldn't hear it.  But why did he care?  "I need a drink."  There were no drinks to be had.  The stores were closing.  The bars were far away.  He had work to do.  The bars were way too far away.  He heard some more voices.  Why weren't there any drinks in the fridge?  What did she say?  Wait, how many people were up there?

He kicked the wall and no one heard it.  He didn't bother to kick it again.  "Now my foot hurts," he said, and he grabbed his foot to show himself he meant it.  It didn't hurt for very long.  "My foot hurts and it's late and I have work to do.  I don't want to do it, but I have to!"  He wanted to have to, really badly.  What else did he have?  Nothing for a sore foot.  Nothing at all.  Brown hair?

Two thirty.  He began browsing Wikipedia; any article would suit him.  After a few lines of Flag Day, a sudden realization: the noises had stopped.  He looked from side to side, as if there were something to see.  He saw nothing.  He slowly looked behind his chair; did his roommate hear anything?  He scratched his brow and turned his head, ears tuned to maximum attention.  Nothing.  A voice.  Nothing.  What did she say?  Nothing. 

"Thank God," he sighed, "I can get back to work."  It wasn't very important.  It was only a distraction, a profound distraction.  Distractions were unavoidable; at any rate, he couldn't avoid them.  No one likes to admit such things, but he had to have been aware; there was nothing in his life except for two in the morning, and "work," and maybe Flag Day.  Flag Day was on June 15th, more than half a year away.  Did he miss it?  "Man, I can't even remember."  Was that the day of the barbecue?  With the beach and the sand, and the hippies, and all the pretty girls in bikinis?  The lithe, nubile, brown-haired girls in the tiny flag bikinis?  Was that Flag Day?  Did that even happen?  He googled it, but he couldn't tell.

Two thirty five, and he heard music.  "What?"  It was faint music, and he couldn't tell what kind.  It could have been opera.  It could have been hippies, playing their hippie panpipes.  Not their hippie drums, though.  It could have been Spanish pop.  Music, and then, tentatively, creaking.  Creak.  Creak.  Creak.  Creak.  "Goddammit."

He couldn't work.  It was important, but he couldn't work.  "I'll do the rest tomorrow."  He went to the living room, where he couldn't hear the creaking, to play some video games. He stared at the television, and the screen was empty.  He didn't see a thing.  Some distractions were simply too profound.

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