The Neighbours

ken-treloar-366022.jpgThe other residents had started complaining about the sex.

Mr Thompson hated situations like this. It had been brought up at a condominium meeting and as the couple from 32A hadn’t shown, the matter was addressed freely. The decision was unanimous. It was getting to be uncomfortable for the other residents. The children were asking questions about the screams and bad language. It had fallen on Mr Thompson as committee chairman, and their immediate neighbour, to say something.

Someone had to. This was a family building.

They had politely ignored it at first. It wasn’t as bad as it was now. They were a young couple. The residents had been there before. It was only natural, first home together and all that. The couple seemed pleasant and friendly. The young man would hold the door open and allow them to pass first. He even helped Mrs Alvarez with her groceries, helping her to unpack them and put them away.

Such a fine young man.

So charming and handsome as well: dark eyes, olive skin, strong jawline and a winning smile. He was quick to engage in a conversation about sport with the men, an Arsenal supporter from his time studying abroad in London, and played on a five a side team himself. That was when he wasn’t helping with his charity at weekends- an organisation that gave street children a place to go to practice an art, learn about culture, be part of something creative. Once he had brought the kids to the building to collect costumes for a production of the Wizard of Oz, how they loved him. The young girls had been vying for his attention, the boys were playful and admiring.

A wonderful addition to the building.

The girlfriend was also attractive. Long dark hair, dark eyes, often outlined immaculately with kohl or eyeliner- like Nefertiti. Gentlemen like Mr.Ramirez, would forget their age and offer to help her with school books and canvases, help which she would always politely decline, complementing their gallantry, commenting on how fortunate the Mrs. Ramirezs of the world were. Not many men today were chivalrous.

A school teacher, she often spoke to the children in the building. She was much beloved by the little girls who were mesmerised by her cat eyes, and the young boys who would bring her flowers in exchange for a hug and a kiss on the cheek that sent them blushing back to their mothers. They would hide behind safety of their legs and sneak another glance at the pretty lady breathing in the perfume of their flower, with a smile. A charming professional couple.

The muffled moans were nothing new. The residents were never usually bothered by such things. They too had been young once, and in love. The muffled bangs and moans were covered by the television and nothing more had been said. But it had been three months since Luis and Sylvia had moved in and the noises were becoming increasingly disturbing and impossible to hide.

Was this the first time a couple had become carried away and forgotten themselves? Phillipe was the first to leap to the couple’s defense. When he and Marie first moved to the building they too had forgotten themselves, got lost in each other, forgetting the world around them. The cries of pleasure, being heard by others had never even occurred to them until they were paid a visit by Ms Castillo, who bluntly told them that their fornication was keeping people awake.

Philippe had resented the comment, Marie had been deathly embarrassed and they snuck around their own home like a pair of teenagers whose parents were asleep upstairs. So naturally when the issue first came up he took the couple’s side, said to give them some time, rather than come across bitter and twisted, a comment which made the unmarried Ms Castillo bristle, fully aware at whom it was aimed. So it was agreed. They would be given some time to acclimatise as it were. It had only been a few weeks.

However, even Phillipe was singing a different song three months down the line. The proclivities of a couple were their business and theirs alone, it was no one’s place to judge or question how a couple comported themselves in the bedroom. There were the dirty talkers, the screamers, the porn lovers, the amateur theatrics, but none of these things were anyone’s business.

It did make things uncomfortable though.

The sounds of slapping, the yelps, the foul language, loud banging and almost sadistic dominatrix style commentaries that could be heard (if you turned off all the appliances and pressed your ear up against the wall, according to Mrs Garcia) aggressively spoken through what now felt like paper thin walls.

The couple seemed insatiable; all weekend long and often nights in the week. Some of the mothers had started gossiping; this kind of behaviour from a teacher at the local school. It was disgusting.

Sylvia would hurry out of the building politely smiling and nodding, looking tired and unkempt. Of course she had the sympathy of the husbands, who would chastise their wives for being so judgemental, such gossips, secretly wishing that their wives would be so compliant, so giving, even once a week. That lucky dog Luis.

Luis was ever nonchalant, relaxed and smiling. He would flirt with the wives, complimenting them on their weight loss, their youthful looks, their dedication to the gym. He would even offer to train them, to accompany them, help them with a program. Make those husbands take notice.

His offers were often met with shy laughter, or embarrassed excuses and a fast exit. Marian Goldblum, however, had taken him up on it, her curiosity getting the better of her. She had often fantasised about letting him pin her down with his strong muscular brown arms and allowing him do whatever it was he did to that insipid girl. Imagine what he could do if he got his hands on an experienced woman like herself. He had been a challenging trainer, and lived up to his promise of making her sweat. However, her attempts at flirtation had been ignored and later that night the banging of walls and cries had been most irritating.

It had to stop.

The young men in the building were also fascinated, Daniel and Harry were eager for the chance to spend some time with Luis, get into his good graces, so they could talk to him, find out more. There was something about Sylvia, she seemed so sweet, good natured. Nothing like the woman they had heard that evening when they had been smoking a joint on the balcony. The loud ‘fucks’, the pleading, it sounded like he was killing her! But then they saw her the next morning, with the paper and the milk. She had smiled a big smile and waved at them as she made her way to the apartment.

The quiet ones were always freaks.

They had to ask, their parents were so old fashioned. Luis had an effect on women, the conversations they had had when they had bummed a smoke off him, he seemed like someone who had no problems with the ladies, even gave the impressions that Sylvia wasn’t the only one.

A player in the flesh.

Man the screams. Their imaginations had already developed the pornographic narrative to accompany the soundtrack. They would watch Sylvia come and go and in their own beds imagine it was them making her scream as they rubbed themselves quietly and rhythmically to the muffled grunts and cries.

But a decision had been taken. Mr. Thompson would address the matter, talk to Luis face to face, he wouldn’t want to embarrass poor Sylvia, she was so friendly, so kind hearted, this was a conversation to be had between men. But what if he was offended? What if he got aggressive? The sounds that Juan had heard could easily be mistaken for a fight, domestic abuse. He once thought he heard her screaming “No, stop! Stop!” The next day he had seen them both strolling out of the window arm in arm, very much in love.

He was being absurd.

It was such an awkward conversation. It had been agreed that he would speak to them that evening. Preferably before the night’s show began. As the nearest vecino, He lived in the apartment 33A, he had it the worst. God they were like animals. Maybe if they realised they would tone it down. As he approached he could hear talking inside. He knocked and waited. The voices stopped abruptly. Suddenly, embarrassed, he turned to walk away, when he heard the door swing open behind him.

“Mr. Thompson!”

Juan could hear the smile on Luis’ face before he even turned around, a handsome young man, a real macho. He reminded him of himself, when he had been younger.

“Buenas Noches Luis, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you I was going to come back later…”

“No! No! Don’t be silly, what can I help you with?” Luis responded leaning in the doorframe one arm holding the door closed towards him,

“Well, it’s a bit of a delicate matter, do you mind if I come in?”

Luis face clouded over, “Now is not a great time, Sylvia isn’t properly dressed,” he then flashed a smile “Can we not discuss it here?”

Juan skimmed over the conversation the committee had had a few nights ago and was quick to say that although he, and a number of other residents, had not been bothered, they had thought perhaps being relatively new to the building the couple were not aware of how the noise carried. He rambled on about the children in the building being impressionable, and how unfortunate language had been overheard one hot night when a window was left open. The long and short of it was could they try to keep the noise to a minimum. He more than anyone understood the nature of the relationship between a man and his woman, and was not one to interfere in another man’s personal life, but it would be a more pleasant environment for all if Luis and Sylvia were aware of the situation.

Juan looked at Luis nervously. The relief when Luis burst into laughter and extended his hand, apologising profusely, made Juan realise that he had actually been holding his breath.

He did not want to fall out with Luis, such a nice man. A man’s man. Luis explained how they had had no idea. How embarrassing for everyone involved. A committee meeting? Over them? Dios Mio! They should have said something sooner. How patient of them to have tolerated it for so long, they must think he and Sylvia are animals. No, of course not, Juan quickly replied and after a rally of apologies and fervent handshakes, Juan Thompson began to mentally draft the email he would send the committee.

Problem solved.

The smile on Luis’ face was wicked. He had been thoroughly amused by Juan’s uncomfortability. It was clear they had to be quieter though, he had been caught up in the moment, turned on by the cries, he had thought these fancy condominiums catered for that: privacy. How many had heard? He didn’t want to bring attention to himself. He called to Sylvia:

“That was Mr Thompson here to complain about the noise. You see why I tell you to control yourself?” How waited for an answer from the bedroom, but just heard her breathing, slowly, deeply. He entered.

“They’ve asked us to keep it quieter from now on. No more ‘partying’ at 3am. You’re going to get us kicked out of here mi amor.”

He looked down at Sylvia who was lying on the floor, tears streaming down one side of her face as she held a hand to her pounding head. She wanted to say it had been involuntary. It had escaped from her throat, before she had realised. She would have liked to get up but she couldn’t move. He hadn’t said she could.

The last time she had gone to clean herself up without permission he had punched her hard in the face and it had left a mark. She did not want to have to explain anything at school and she already hated how the ladies had started to turn and whisper when she walked past them. Another stream of tears began to run across her nose down her right cheek and pool on the wooden floor. She stared up blankly and fixedly at the ceiling and wished she were somewhere else. He kicked her hard in the ribs. She curled up closed her eyes tightly and swallowed a sob. She knew better than to make a noise.

He chuckled to himself. Sex is too loud. Idiots. He wanted a sandwich. Today had not gone to the way he would have hoped at work, and this complaint from the committee could have got him into a lot of trouble if they hadn’t thought it was the unbridled passions of a couple in love. He had wanted into this building for a while. Now he was in it was important not to become a nightmare neighbour. He made his way to the closet and opened the door. A woman. Her hands handcuffed to the bar above her head, swaying dazed. Her brown hair looked sweaty and unwashed hanging down, covering her face. Her wrists seemed sore, she seemed too tired to hold herself up, instead choosing to hang like another one of Luis’ suits. He leaned in closely to whisper into her ear:

“Did you hear that? Keep it the fuck down.”

Then closed the door and made his way back out to the kitchen.

He switched on the television, making sure the volume wasn’t too high, the game would be starting in 10 minutes. Then stepping into the kitchen he opened the fridge and started to root around. Sylvia had better not forgotten to buy the bread again. The mood he was in, that would really piss him off.

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