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streetlights

There is no easy way to say it. I was married to someone I hid from. Tucking E into a sling, I would disappear for hours saying I was going shopping for dinner, and if she fell asleep the excuse was that she needed fresh air as I sat on a park bench with her tiny hand grabbing my pinky until she eventually woke up. I would make my way along the side streets of Greenwich as the sun went down, leaning into store windows but not going in. Eventually I would go home, and as I turned the corner there was a security light that would switch on - obviously attached to some motion sensor. In those strange and lonely moments, I would talk to that light. Each time it clicked on, I felt somehow that the night ahead could be survived no matter what madness waited for us behind the front door.

That was twelve years ago.

Another life, another country.

Today, I turned a corner in Moscow with an all-too familiar bag of groceries swinging from my shoulder. A street light flickered on and all at once I…

girlfriend experience


The new neighbor is a single woman. We have seen her a handful of times, once with a tiny dog barking wildly as the elevator doors opened on our floor. Another time, she opened her apartment door to pay for a pizza delivery. She was in a robe, as is common here. Her face is always down, messy hair falling across it, no hello, no familiar nod, no eye contact.

There is no loud tv we hear through the walls we share with her. The dog only barks during the day, when I assume it is alone. There are no eavesdropped arguments like the previous tenants, a young couple. The girlfriend threatened to go and live with her mother which we assume happened in the end. There is no sticky smell of pot wafting under the door, no drunken toasts, no parties with friends.

Every Thursday night at about 1am, there is a heavy thumping against the living room wall. It is rhythmic, almost athletic. There are cries and moans, all her. Ugly, harsh sounds as if her leg is broken. It all stops abruptly, as oddly as it began. There is no other voice, just hers. This odd ritual goes on for weeks, a near-perfect repetition, a carbon copy. Of course it is bizarre to hear things so clearly, and we can only imagine what she might say if she knew that the walls are so thin. And then, the mind wanders as it always does. Is she someone's mistress? Is she waiting for this visit the entire week? Or is she a prostitute with a regular client? Does she have a lover that visits her the same night each week? The answer hangs in the air, a fly buzzing around our heads refusing to pass through the crack of a window and disappear.

Over time, the performance grows especially hard to listen to, such a personal moment being broadcast. Once, or randomly it would not even register but the same weeknight, the duplicate pattern of moans, the predictable lurch, the sudden silence, it must be a script of some kind. Maybe they know we can hear them and do not care, or maybe they want us to. Nothing will be answered, none of it. That is a common phenomenon here.

The parade may be real, the guns may be loaded or it is all a big show.

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