The wall I share with my neighbors is cold against my cheek. They’re fighting, and I’ve put my ear against the wall to listen. It’s not the first time this has happened.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asks.
“It means whatever you want it to mean,” he says.
“Well I don’t know what it means, so you’ll have to tell me,” she says.
These stock phrases are all I ever hear. Just once I want to know what it is they argue about, but by the time I hear the raised voices and get over to the wall, they’ve always moved on to generalities.
“I don’t even know what we’re fighting about,” he says. “I can’t remember what we’re talking about. Can you?”
A few seconds later the door slams, and I look out the front window to see her walk past on the sidewalk. She’s walking quickly, angrily, head down, hips swaying. She’s beautiful, my neighbor. She’s got this curly hair that goes past her shoulders, and depending on the light it can look brown or brown with a little bit of red. I’ve been noticing these things lately.
The first time I heard my neighbors fight, Alisha still lived here, and we eavesdropped together.
“Do you think they can hear us fight?” she asked.
“I doubt it,” I said.
“If we can hear them this clearly, I’m sure they can hear us.”
“Well then why did you ask?”
She squinted. “I think we’re louder than them. I think we yell more.”
“Maybe we should give them something else to listen to,” I said, and reached toward her.
“Gross,” she said, and slapped me away.
She pulled away from the wall and walked to the middle of the room. “This is creepy,” she said. “I can’t do this.”
“All right,” I said. “We’ll stop.”
I came up behind Alisha, but she didn’t turn. She just stood there, facing away from me.
Now, when my neighbor comes back from her walk, I go straight for the wall. There are voices, but I can’t hear what they’re saying. If I had to guess, I’d say this is the big one. This is the fight that’s going to end it once and for all.
But then the voices stop, and I hear footsteps, doors opening and closing, a thud as something–maybe a belt buckle–hits the floor. And pretty soon the creaking begins, and the moaning, and let me tell you, it’s unbelievable. I mean, no girl has ever made these kinds of sounds with me, and I should probably be angry, should probably pound on the wall and yell at them to keep it down. But that’s not what I want to do. What I want to do is go next door and ask them if I can observe, if I can get a few pointers. Seriously. I’m really curious.
I just want to know how they’re doing this. I want to know how they’re making this work.
About the author: Andrew De Young lives in Minneapolis, where he works in publishing. Together with his wife Sarah, he founded and runs Replacement Press and blogs at Replacement Blog. As a writer, he’s accomplished nothing worth mentioning, nor does he photograph particularly well.
About the jurors: Andrew De Young’s piece was selected as a 2010 miniStories finalist by an all-star panel of flash fiction judges — Alexander Chee (The Queen of the Night, Edinburgh), Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket series, The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs), Kevin Larimer (editor of Poets & Writers), Heather McElhatton (Pretty Little Mistakes, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single), and author Dennis Cass, who served as lead juror in mnartists.org’s 2010 miniStories competition.
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