Learning about the Neighbors Above Us
Christina Yu

While we are away on vacation, the new neighbors move in upstairs. They are no heavier than the tenants who previously lived there. One of them, in fact, is very thin, blonde, and smokes a great deal. For some reason, however, she and her roommates’ footsteps make the beams creak, so that we can hear them pacing up and down in strange patterns throughout the night. We have no idea how to address this problem. We can only call security to register a complaint if a neighboring party is playing loud music or throwing a party.

After a few more weeks, we begin to hear other noises. Snoring. Water trickling out of a faucet. Shampoo bottles clunking down into the tub. A finger tapping the button on an alarm clock. A pair of glasses being folded and set down on a coffee table. The noises are very disruptive, but how can we complain? What would we say? That they live too loudly? We cannot complain that the walls are too thin. The rent is inexpensive, and we do not have enough money to move elsewhere. Overall we are still happy with the living arrangement despite our neighbors. Still, we feel as if we ought to be able to say something about the noise. The rent is not so inexpensive that we are willing to live uncomfortably in exchange for the amount we pay every month. In the end we decide to wait for the neighbors to throw a party or play loud music. Then we will be able to call security and register the first warning.

Meanwhile we cannot play our own music or engage in our usual activities. If we intend to file a complaint about others we cannot give them reason to do the same against us. As we wait day after day, we try to remember the previous tenants and whether we could hear them at all through the ceiling, but we cannot recall anything except the sound of our own music—which we have not heard in a long time now.