Tin Cans of Testimony
When we both finally found somewhere to live, our flats were on opposite sides of the same street - a fresh geographic manifestation of our long and close friendship. We joked about how this might affect us. Would we spy on each other’s breakfasts and dinners? Or would we learn semaphore and stand on our balconies with arms moving to the rhythm of our own private language?
When I suggested, between laughs, that we should install a two-way telephone I regretted it almost instantly. Your face lit up with boyish enthusiasm and a smile which signposted irrepressible intent. There’d be no flashing red Bat-Phone with which to request a rescue from boredom, not yet, but with nothing more than a piece of string and two empty cans we’d build a direct line from the hearth of your home to mine.
Always one for privacy and a big believer in the sanctity of a quiet night in, I initially balked at the idea. It was bad enough that you would, should the mood take you, be able to peer directly in to my private life - but to give you unfettered vocal access to it seemed like a step far too far. You wore me down both with well-reasoned arguments and your infectious zeal. I soon more than warmed to the idea; life could be like one of the TV shows we grew up watching, the ones with teen boys climbing ladders in to bedroom windows. I began to fantasise about the possibilities: hammy jokes (requests for sugar), or spontaneous ideas (invitations to that flash looking “curling bar” on the corner). We could make real every sitcom cliche we’d so jealously hated whilst living in other people’s spare rooms. This was the direction our friendship should take.
I moved in a fortnight before you, but you insisted that we install our “communications network” (each successive breath imbued the scheme with greater grandiosity) as soon as we both had our keys. I managed to talk you out of tying the line to an arrow and shooting it across the road. I was terrified we’d hit the couple next door, your neighbours-to-be. You didn’t share my concerns: “Look at their yellowing windowsills and anaemic pot plants. They’re clearly sadomasochists. If anything they’d enjoy the pierce of the arrow through their wrinkled skin”. I could only think of their screams reverberating back through the string, painting the walls of my new home.
No, it was simply a well-aimed throw that delivered the mouthpiece to your side of the street. You caught it on the first try and, as I stared across, all I could see was you as Moses, your balcony looming like Mount Sinai whilst the empty tin of peas you held above your head was a stone tablet which would deliver unto me the laws and commandments of our new neighbourly relationship. I watched as your mouth moved and prophetic truths danced silently along the taut string; a tripwire suspended ten metres above the ground.
Words came to my waiting ears:
“Please use curtains”.