12. Neighbors — These walls do talk.

These walls do talk. Every Monday, muffled laughs. On Thursdays he makes gin & tonics and plays his records till 12. I smell his coffee grinds Sunday mornings when he returns, bags bustling from the Grove farmers market, and puts a kettle on the stove. He reads thick books with solemn endings and always pours his beer into a glass. I used to think that was smug, but now I glance at pint glasses at corner stores like I might someday give him one wrapped in butcher paper with a note that says Love, me.

I know your story like I know the story of every neighbor I’ve never met. The intimacy of routines—gaps filled with romanticized details of strange faces and swept floors, picked flowers on the bookcase by the door. I think your sheets are gray and your toothbrush red. I think you like peanut butter in your cereal and there’s a suit in your closet that you never wear. Lately I’ve heard a new laugh and I think that she might love you.

See, lives sound better filtered through paper-thin walls, the voices just far off enough to feel close. Like the old cassettes of ocean sounds, I use your noise to nod to sleep, taking comfort in heavy footsteps that shake the shining dust from my ceiling, fluttering down onto me till it’s almost like we’ve touched. I wonder at every raised tone and even more at sudden silence, with a silly pang of envy at the thought of an embrace. Once I heard you dancing in your bedroom and I stood whole minutes in the hall, dancing just beneath you.