One Thousand Words on It Takes a Village, But Not For That

I’ve never lived in a single family home so I’m used to communal living.

Oh maybe we lived in a “real” house from the time I was born until my parents divorced when I was two but I can’t remember it.

After the divorce, my mother and I lived in an apartment. Then I moved to a college dorm and, after graduation, to the first floor of a rented house.

When I bought a home a few years ago, the responsibility of snow plowing and roof shingles and trash removal wasn’t of interest. After years of apartment dwelling, it was enough that we’d have to worry about the hot water heater and furnace and garbage disposal.

But although there’s an association to handle plowing and roofs, there are other challenges to living in a group setting.

For instance, the house we rented had a steady stream of interesting (and by interesting I mean crazy) tenants living on the second floor and in the house right next door.

One new neighbor’s first words to me were “Want a beer?”

A few months later we came home to find a police car in the driveway and this same neighbor on his knees in the gravel, being pepper sprayed and handcuffed. Apparently there was some sort of domestic scuffle.

Later a couple moved in with their two sons, who both look just like Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story, right down to the dorky glasses.

Don’t judge me for this, but those kids were just plain dumb. (Now you know why I could never be a teacher.)

After one particularly heavy snow storm, we looked out the window and noticed that the older boy had put his brother between two sleds and was busily burying him.

My mother and I tended to avoid those kids at all costs. When they stood out beside the road next to a pile of junk their father wanted to get rid of yelling, “Free stuff for sale,” we didn’t say a word.

When they decided that their living room window made an appropriate goal post for their football game, we figured it was their parent’s problem.

But this latest game seemed a little dangerous. People can suffocate in snow.

So my mother stepped out onto our porch and called over to them. “Can he breathe under there?”

The boy looked up from his task, pushed his glasses up on his face and said, “If he can’t, he’ll say something.”

Duh.

The townhouse we purchased is in a decidedly better neighborhood, but it’s still community living so we expected one or two minor irritations.

Sure enough, neighbor’s guests have parked in our spaces and mail has been delivered to the wrong box. But no drunken arrests or youthful attempts at fratricide, so we count our blessings.

What I didn’t expect is that we’d be able to hear our neighbors having sex.

Being a “middle unit,” we share walls on both sides. My mother wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but I thought maybe one less outside wall would keep our heating bill down.

There must be pretty good insulation or sound proofing, because we don’t often hear noises from either neighbor. Maybe during an occasionally party or when they are using the vacuum cleaner (which, I’m shocked to say, happens less than once every two months, if that. Is vacuuming a thing of the past?)

We can also hear the washing machine and the occasional shower running.

Then one night, I was lying in bed reading when I heard my mother frantically whisper, “Heather! Heather!”

Our home is open-concept. Although my mother’s room is on the first floor and I occupy the upstairs, we can easily hear each other.

I said, “What” and she replied, “Come down here.”

So I wandered down to her room, where she was in bed trying so hard not to laugh I thought she was going to have a heart attack. “Listen,” she hissed at me.

I sat on her bed and listened. Through the wall I heard, “Oh God. Yes. Oh God Yes.” Over and over and over.

If they had any idea my mother and I were laughing at them on the other side of the wall, it didn’t stop them.

Those neighbors were renting the townhouse and rather unfriendly. Even before the eavesdropping incident, my smiles and waves were met with a stony glare.

Because we never officially met them and didn’t know their names, we immediately dubbed the woman “Yes” and the man “Oh God.”

Then Oh God and Yes moved on to greener pastures and, hopefully, thicker walls. A single woman moved in and, even when her boyfriend is visiting, my mother isn’t treated to any passionate noises.

Maybe they just aren’t the vocal type.

All was silent on the sex front until today.

I was sitting at our dining room table, writing and surfing the web (probably more the latter than the former, truth be told) when I heard the shower in the townhouse on the other side of us turn on.

That wasn’t a surprise because their master bathroom is right on the other side of our dining room wall.

But it wasn’t a simple shower today.

I didn’t hear a specific phrase like “Oh God” or “Yes,” but our neighbors were definitely doing a lot more than washing their hair.

It’s an odd feeling to be sitting at your own table in your own house, listening to someone else’s shower sex.

I felt a little guilty, like I was a voyeur or spying on them, but it’s not like I asked to be listening.

Don’t I have the right to be sitting at my table at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning? Why should I have to move because they felt like getting it on in the shower?

But I dread running into them tomorrow morning as we leave for work. How do you look someone in the eye when you know what they do in the shower?

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