I have not met my neighbours, yet. But I have a variety of impressions from living side by side, separated by a wall that is not sound proof.
So far, I have heard only adult voices. There is no other indication that children are living right next door. People come and go. At times, the light is on in the dining room, whose windows are facing the windows of our dining room, six feet apart. Behind the curtains, outlines of human figures are visible. And these figures talk, discuss, and laugh. I consider the interactions animated, loud, passionate, Mediterranean.
In the flow of these voices, I can hear the door open and close, the conversations being carried out onto the street and slowly disappearing. Then it is silent, the light sometimes on, sometimes off.
Last night, there was one point where the mood of the voices turned from cheerful, convincing, passionate, to a much tenser mood. The conversation started to escalate, in a mix of English and Spanish hues and accents. “But not in my house” was the only sentence that was shouted clearly enough to be discernible above all the other voices. Rapid-fire call and answer pattern, the volume increasing, and the vibe reaching emergency levels. “But not in my house” repeated a deep male voice over and over again.
It was impossible for me to focus on my reading anymore. I was not able to disassociate myself from the situation next door. “This is not right,” I thought. Do I need to do something – and what would be the right thing to do? I silently prayed for de-escalation.
As the mix of voices brewed into this giant, roaring thunderstorm, a female voice started to scream “get off of him, get off of him!” It was a hysterical, high-pitched tone of voice – to me it sounded like panic.
My housemate Laura came downstairs because she was genuinely concerned about the neighbours. She suggested calling somebody. She must have been praying for the verbal violence to end. It seemed all like posturing up to this point, but the imminence for an outburst of physical violence was palpable. He still shouted insistently “but not in my house!”
The shrieking of “get off of him” continued non-stop, its intensity increasing with each and every repetition. All the other voices were forming a basso continuo to the duet of clearly audible messages.
As Laura and I prayed silently and considered what to do, the tide of the roar started to ebb. The woman’s shrieks stopped, the man’s insistence faded into the general mix of animated and heated voices. We heard the door opening, and closing, and opening and closing over the next few minutes and the tenseness of the mood clearly de-escalated. Within half an hour, it was quiet.
I will never know, what really happened next door that evening. I will never know who was right or wrong. I sense that it was the woman’s plea and cry for help, conveying the fear of serious consequences of whatever action that would follow in the escalation of the conflict, that seemed to have turned the tide.
And I am glad for this turn of events. Too many times each day, I hear the sirens and see the flashing lights of emergency response vehicles in Kensington. Not every crisis resolves as easy as the one Laura and I helplessly witnessed through the thin wall.