The People Upstairs

January 29, 2008

6:00 a.m.

I’m standing in my bathroom with the lights on and the fan off, listening to my upstairs neighbors scream at each other.

“This is something I will not tolerate!” he says. His new wife sobs in the deep background. She sounds a little bit like a cat in heat when she cries. It’s become a familiar sound.

This young couple has been here about three months, been married since just before Christmas. She’s a dumpy, emotional blonde and he’s a wiry, earnest southern boy. The kind of people I grew up with. They’ve had numerous run-ins with my roommate and the girl who occupies the third apartment in our house, but I’ve only seen them in passing and heard them through the ceiling. They screw and they fight at odd hours. Sometimes they do both simultaneously. When they start, I turn up the volume on my radio, or I turn everything off and listen.

“I wake up six in the morning and you’ve got the bedroom door locked!” he yells.

The faucet dribbles loud, drowning them out and reminding me I should probably feel guilty for listening in this way.

“You are so fucked up right now,” he goes on.

“I am not fucked up right now,” she wails.

“You are so fucked up.”

I long ago determined that this pair is country and crazy. I’ve speculated that one or both of them is on meth. But, because I’m writing a story about a meth dealer, I suspect that everyone is on meth lately. My own fiction tends to creep up on me that way. Or I creep up on it.

“I did two bags in the morning,” she whines, “because I couldn’t even walk.”

He says something about insurance. Busting his ass to pay insurance. My damned faucet leaks.

“You want me to call your dad?” He says.

“No,” she answers.

“You want me to call George and tell him his daughter is relapsing? What would he say about that?”

“He would be very disappointed in me,” she says, weeping harder. She sounds like a five year-old reciting a well-worn admonition she doesn’t quite understand.

“You said when we got married you were through with this shit,” he says.

“You hate me,” she screams, accusing.

“I love you,” he says, softer, his voice breaking.

“I love you,” she says.

“I love you so much.” He crashes over the so much like a hard salt wave.

I flush, obscuring the last, hollow, conciliatory words. We’re all blind.    How easy it is to see from down here.



  1. That’s like a mighty fine piece of flash fiction there, Duck.

  2. Three months… eesh. And also, I’m quite sure I would’ve listened too.

  3. I’ve been wondering where to find those folks when they’re not at home. They used to have a sign of some sorts…

  4. How about a book of overheard conversations:

    Eavesdropped: Stories of Love and Meth in New Hanover County

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