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no gold (things will have to wait)

There is an old Russian expression for the inevitable moment when your neighbors begin renovating. "Searching for gold in the walls." They say, to describe the epic sounds of drills in ancient concrete. You might appreciate this odd humor, this dark joke, this survival tactic. I am not so graceful a man to wrap my thoughts around it. Those drills and grinders, they shake the very walls of our apartment. Early on Sunday mornings and often long into the evenings they go.

This has been going on for the last four months, maybe more. I stopped counting.

I cannot imagine there are any walls left, that there is an entire open floor below us, the wind whipping through the naked beams and nothing else. That is the only explanation. Or that they break down walls, build new ones, find a flaw, some grand mistake and then break all of the walls down again. Not swiftly with sledgehammers, but with one crappy old drill with a dull bit, mashing away, so that children hundreds of miles away…

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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