Trouble in Paradise
Groaning floorboards overhead stir me to consciousness. I look at the clock, knowing what I will see but nonetheless desiring confirmation. At this point I could probably throw it out and let the fights wake me.
She starts in with muffled crying. He shouts something at her I can recognize as English but not make out. Travel? Enamel? Gravel? It’s become a game, trying to figure out what they’re fighting over. She slaps him so hard I hear it. And feel it, secondhand. A good hard slap is like that.
I deliberate over whether I really need this job for a solid three minutes before forcing myself out of bed and lurching to the bathroom. Those two continue unabated, creaking and small showers of dust betraying their location. They’re over my kitchen now.
A blast of hot water scours the sleep crud from my eyes. So rejuvenating that more than once, that’s been my entire shower. If I’m running late I just stick my head in, wash my face and hair, then let it dry during the commute. I think my skin dehydrates while I sleep?
A resounding thud. He’s knocked her on her ass. More loud weeping. I’ve long since given up on the cops doing anything about it. That was before I knew better than to involve anyone else. Like a show they put on just for my sake.
Count Chocula today. Always buy the colorful sugary cereals. I get weird looks from the cashier sometimes but I’m finally old enough that I sincerely don’t give a shit. I always wondered how that happens. Turns out you just don’t have the energy to care.
Like how when you’re a kid you can just explode to your feet and run off like a maniac, but by twenty it takes a second or two to get up from your seat. That interval grows exponentially from that point onward. I mix the cereal around. Pet peeve, I want it all saturated with milk.
I hear her run from one room to another, slam the door and lock it. Then the pounding starts. His voice is stern at first. But it grows increasingly frustrated and menacing. Then he begins counting down. I can’t make out the numbers but the sound of it is unmistakable.
Why the hell does a chocolate cereal turn the milk purple? What’s in this shit? Probably making my sperm count plummet. Fine by me, I’ll never need ‘em. Apart from my schedule, emotional unavailability and incurable bad habits, living under a seemingly endless domestic brawl has put me off romantic pursuits.
I remember when I tried to get the landlady to do something. She was alarmed at first as I described what I’d heard. But when she went up to check it out, that was the end of it. Returned my calls just once, warning me not to waste her time again.
At last, I hear a crash as he kicks the door down. Then panicked screaming, cut short by a single gunshot. All is still. Seconds tick by. I hear the floorboards flex above me as he paces to and fro. I can imagine what’s going through his mind. Then comes the second gunshot, and the sound of something heavy collapsing to the floor.
A few minutes later, two red stains begin to grow on the ceiling. It would trouble me, except that I live on the top floor.