During my second year of graduate school, the quiet man next door moved out, and a noisy new couple moved in. They were what I’ve come to call “neo-hippies,” ones who aren’t so anti-establishment as they are pro-Earth and the fruits of her soil. I remember sitting on my balcony, peacefully reading until the air was punctuated with the man’s philosophies: “In the end, we’re all just viruses, plundering and raping the Earth.” (I’m paraphrasing. This man used f-bombs like I use spaces, commas, and periods.) The air was heavily perfumed with the increasingly familiar smell of weed.
For the most part, life with the neighbors was pretty typical: irritation at their noisy games of Rock Band, worry for the virgin ears of the five-year-old living across from us, and determination to out-live their tenancy in the apartment complex. Little did I know how quickly the latter would come to fruition.
At two in the morning, I awoke to the sound of screaming and yelling, loudly enough for me to understand the colorful cussing coming from both parties. I was prepared to plug my ears when a series of heavy thuds sounded, followed by silence. Eventually, I could hear his voice, but hers was conspicuously absent. To this day, I still wonder if I should have called the police for domestic violence. It’s Kitty Genovese all over again, except this time, I was the one still with shock. Eventually, when nothing else seemed to happen, I fell back asleep.
The following morning, I left for spring break. When I returned, the apartment next door was empty, all furniture gone, the carpet steamed clean, the blinds wiped down and the walls repainted an uninteresting white. No one felt compelled to talk about their sudden departure, so I still don’t know how it all went down. I have every hope that everything worked out in the end.
In the meantime, I now read scientific journal articles to the sweet sound of silence.