Upstairs

When I’m back home in Brooklyn I like to sit in my living room and listen to the man who lives in the apartment above mine yell. Sometimes I’ll get up from my couch and follow his shouting into my kitchen and cock my ear to the vent of the airshaft we share. Most of the time I have no clue what’s going on up there. I’ve never met the man. I have no idea what he looks like. And I really hope he’s physically incapable of carrying out the threats he makes.

But I do enjoy the man’s voice nonetheless. There’s so much anger, insecurity, and impotence in it. Whether he’s yelling at his son or the son’s mother (I’m not sure if the man and the woman are even together) I find it cathartic. Not for him. That man’s damned to go on yelling. But for me there comes a point somewhere along the airshaft where the man’s voice fades out—like I’m catching the tail end of an echo—and the voice could very well be my own. Then the argument ends (to be continued) and I feel much better for having gone through it.

In Los Angeles I’ve traded the man upstairs for a creature that riots in my attic. Like the man, I’ve never actually seen the creature, so I’m praying it’s a squirrel. About once a month it tricks me into believing it’s in my room. I pull the covers over me—making sure my feet don’t show—and try to muster the strength to jump to the floor and scurry over to the light switch across the room.

I don’t wish the man upstairs any harm. But I do want the creature dead. The other day we had an earthquake in Los Angeles—I hope that got him. And if my wish seems cruel, what can I say? He’s not the kind of monster I can relate to.

(There’s a vent in the ceiling of my L.A. bedroom. I’ll let you know if I smell anything.)