October 24th
Sounds Upstairs
by eva mcenrue

I can’t sleep at night because the neighbor above me won’t stop f*cking.

It’s 3AM and I’m wide awake, lying in bed, staring into darkness. The four metal rods of her bedframe come down around me like a cage, screeching forward and backward at a rapid pace.

The place between my stomach and ribs tenses, like on a rollercoaster when the over-the-shoulder restraints lock in. The screeching softens and settles into a slow thump-thud, thump-thud, thump-thud.

They stop. I take a deep breath and reach through the black towards my nightstand, finding a glass of water beside an empty bottle of wine. I drink it down and ease back into my pillow.

Thump-thud, thump-thud, thump-thud. They start again, her mattress slamming against the wall that we share. My mattress echoing its vibrations.


They stop having sex after the sun comes up. I have to be at work in an hour. I’m afraid if I go to sleep now, I won’t wake up.

I hear her guest wake up. She’s still asleep. I can tell by the careful way he steps in consideration.

I follow his footprints tip-toeing out of her apartment. I wait at my peephole and watch as he goes down the steps. He pauses and tugs on his boots. I don’t see his face.


I go to my fridge and take out a La Colombe Draft Latte. Cheap travel souvenirs magnetize wedding invites to the door. Invites from friends who once lived in the city, who I would have cried to about the breakup, and complained to about the girl upstairs, and who would have insisted I stay the night with them. They’ve all moved to the suburbs or some other, more practical city. I toss the invites into the trash.

On my lunch break I go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and buy a broomstick. I carry it with me back to work, and on the subway home.

The woman and I make dinner and then watch TV together in our separate apartments. I hear her move from the couch to the oven to check on whatever she’s cooking.

I drink a bottle of red wine in bed, a new ritual to help ensure I fall asleep.

At 2AM I wake up to the building’s buzzer. Whoever’s outside holds onto it drunkenly.

I hear the woman slither out of her bed to her front door. I follow her footsteps.

Only a few seconds pass between when the buzzing stops and the screeching begins.


I drop my morning’s two empty La Colombe Draft Latte cans into the trash bin outside my apartment.

My super is standing there. His apartment is beneath mine.

My super liked me because he liked my ex-boyfriend. He’d let him bum a cig, and they’d talk about sports while I went upstairs and gathered my things to take back to his place. “If it’s only going to take a second,” my ex would say, “then I’ll just wait down here.” He hated the walk up.

I greet him with a nod. He stares at me coldly.

He tells me I’ve been keeping him up all night. “Who sweeps at 4AM?”

“It’s the new girl who lives above me. She’s up all night, so I’m up all night, so I guess I keep you up all night,” I explain.

He tells me she’s lived here for a year. “There’s never been an issue.”

“Oh, well, I didn’t know. I usually stayed at my boyfriends –ex-boyfriends -- we just broke up, so, I’ve only just started sleeping here.”

He doesn’t acknowledge the breakup, but somehow makes it clear that he likes me less. Even though I wasn’t the one who cheated.

He tells me to put down a rug. It’ll muffle the noise. If things don’t improve, I’ll be asked to leave. I won’t get my security deposit back. I had re-signed a week before we broke up.

That night, I go to the gym, a new ritual to help ensure I fall asleep.

The screeching has already begun by the time I get home.

I stand up on my bed and bang the broomstick handle on ceiling.

The screeching stops for a moment, then goes faster, louder.

I hit the broomstick handle harder against the ceiling.

It’s quiet, for a moment. Then THUMP-THUD, THUMP-THUD.

My walls shake, my mattress bounces, I lose my balance.

I go to the couch. I’m too tired to cry.

I text my ex, “Can I come over?”

He doesn’t respond.

I listen to the thump-thuds as I shop on Amazon. I order a rug. It takes me all night to pick one.


I leave work early, in time to sign for the delivery.

I carry the rug up the stairwell. It’s light, easy to carry.

The woman stands by my door at the top of the steps.

She offers to help, if only because the rug and I are in her way.

She’s plain with average features. Dowdy and tightly wound. Not the free-spirit that I had hoped for.

We carry it up the stairs together awkwardly.

“It’s to keep noise down,” I say, looking at the rug. “For my neighbor below.”

I open my door. She takes in the identical layout.


That night it’s quiet. I feel bad.

I can’t sleep.

I get on Bumble and flirt with my second match.

I tell him to come over and to please text me when he gets here.

He texts me 20 minutes later.

I buzz him up and wait at my peephole.

He stops at the top of stairs. I open the door.

“You could have told me you live on the top floor,” he says. He’s struggling to catch his breath.

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