Knowing thy neighbour


Sunday night, 3 a.m. Midterm in the morning. My mind is full of useless textbook terms and definitions that will no doubt dissipate tomorrow during my jaunty post-exam stroll to the bus loop. I climb into bed next to my favourite stuffed animal and mull over the uselessness of multiple-choice tests in a post-academic setting, expecting to get the typical five-hour sleep so common for students the night before an exam. And that’s when I hear it — strange moans echoing out in the hallway. At first I think it’s Nebuchadnezzar, my stuffed sea otter from the Vancouver Aquarium. “Is that you, Neb?” I whisper. No answer. I bet he’s having that dream again, the one where he becomes the next big thing in modern-day Babylon. Or maybe he’s working out the kinks in his new Babylon Style dance video.

When I walk out of my bedroom with Neb tucked under my arm, I can hear heavy panting through the walls. A woman’s voice. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Fuck indeed; my next-door neighbour is having yet another sleepover. He always does this on Sunday nights. I’ve been cramming all night for tomorrow’s test, and now I have to listen to two strangers cramming in a less academic manner. What happened to good old-fashioned platonic sleepovers with giant teddy bears and fuzzy orca whales? All my neighbour does when he’s home is have sex. He must be in the navy. Shouldn’t navy guys love fuzzy orca whales as much as I do?

I’m new to this apartment, so I don’t know my neighbours all that well. The only one I’ve really seen is this guy. We’ve had the occasional awkward run-in on the stairs or in the laundry room or out in the parking lot. A few weeks ago, he caught me rocking out to Kelly Clarkson in my car. I was just about to park when her new song came on the radio, and I figured, why waste a good song, right? It was only when I stepped out with bags of groceries that I saw him. His parking spot is across from mine and he must’ve just pulled in before I did. It’s hard to describe the look on his face. I’ve tried to forget. Let’s just say he’s never held the elevator for me since.

I muster up the courage to knock on his suite door, anxious about asking him to shut the hell up. After a moment he opens it with a big dumb grin on his face. The phrase, “Farting is just my way of saying I love you,” is printed across his boxers.

I can hear giggling somewhere beyond the door. I’m not impressed and neither is Neb. Yes, he’s still clutched under my arm, and now my neighbour is wide-eyed and staring at me like I’m the crazy one.

“Listen,” I say in a squeaky voice. “Do you think you can keep it down? I’ve got a crazy-hard midterm tomorrow and I really need sleep.”

He shuts the door before I can get another word out. Man, I’ve got the worst luck with this guy closing doors in my face; first the elevator, now this.

I head back into my bedroom. “Looks like it’s another night of sleeping with my head stuffed between two pillows,” I say to Neb. He never replies. As I balance a second pillow over my ear, I begin mulling over the complexities of apartment living. Forget worrying about university exams — now that I’m certain there’s a nymphomaniac living next door, I can’t help but wonder who lives above and below me. A kleptomaniac? An arsonist? What kind of weird things do they get up to at 3 a.m.? Hopefully no orgies. Hearing my neighbour getting it on with a stranger is bad enough. I guess I could just pretend they were playing animal kingdom. Right, Neb?