I used to live next to this guy who had Tourette’s. We shared the long wall in a loft I bought, the first and only thing on which I’ve ever had a mortgage. It wasn’t clear when buying the apartment he made noise. He was gone during the day and this was when they showed me the apartment. You never know what you are moving next to, usually, until you’re there.
I can’t remember the first time I heard him doing the noises. It must have been early on sometime in the first nights, as most every night he was up all through it, and yet there seems no starting or stopping ground. The sound was just all over me. The main thing he’d do is this short, high whooping sound, like WOO!, the kind most people often use to express they are having a good time. He made the sound during the worse periods roughly five to 20 times a minute. Other times he would slow down and only woo with long blank periods between, like he was letting it percolate inside him, to control it. More frequently he was not controlling it at all.
Another thing the guy would do is talk at high volume to his dog. He had this big white thin curly haired dog named Gracey whose name he would repeat while in the house alone with her. He would call her and call her and say her name again and again without waiting for her to come or for any other kind of acknowledgement apparently. When I would see them outside the house the dog looked scared. He would get angry when she didn’t want to walk beside him. His head was small and buzzed of hair and he looked red. I don’t think he ever smiled where I could see him. He would not look at me. He seemed to want to explode.
For long periods the noises went on every night. He would stay up until three or four AM, doing the woo or talking to the dog or otherwise grunting or kind of barking. He would put on porn very loud and make noises while watching it. He would have men over and they would have sex in his bedroom area during which the barking got really heated and intense to the point that I would have to cover my head or put on music, though as this became more frequent I would bang on the wall between us in the night and shout for him to stop. Sometimes he seemed to try to stop and other times he just kept barking. I reported him to our housing management three or four times, though as a homeowner they never seemed to be able to do anything about it other than make him more angry. He would tell the management he took sleeping medication and it caused him to have odd responses, though he claimed to be unaware of the noises.
Sometimes I’m actually not even sure the guy had Tourette’s. Some nights it would be silent even while he was home over there, and when I would run into him outside the house he made no sound. I never tried to talk to him about it directly because I don’t like talking. I tend to take the long way around a thing. In that way I am dumb. He also didn’t seem to want to know that I existed. I realized he maybe frequently used stimulants, and the noises were a result of that. Some nights I tried to ignore the noises, and some nights I would listen with a glass at the wall when he was talking to the dog to hear what he was saying. One night for more than an hour he told the dog goodbye over and over, that he was leaving, though he did not leave. One night he opened all his windows and turned all the lights on at 4 AM and had sex on his kitchen table screaming. That’s the only time I ever called the cops. It didn’t make him stop. The noise could begin or end at any hour and it seemed to fill my whole apartment and it seemed to fill up my whole face and my whole mind.
Time in my home during this time seems overrun with this other person’s sound. So much of a home is centered around the air inside it, and my air was all times run by the person I could not see, so much that when I came home often I would enter wincing, unsure if tonight I’d be able to think clearly, to sit in silence. Having that option taken away from you is a torture; it is clearer now than ever how effective sound assaults such as what they used on the compounds at Waco can be on consuming someone’s brain. I am sure I was more exhausted, more on edge and often meaner in general as a person because of who I lived next to. His small repeating sound in some ways for that time formed my life. It makes me think more now than ever about music, the selection and control of it, the sounds that surround us that we might not recognize are there, but that are constantly feeding on our body, entering and exiting our head.
I don’t live next to the woo-man anymore. When the first tornado to ever land on Atlanta landed on Atlanta it landed on our homes. It lifted the roof off of our building and slammed it back down and destroyed things. Woo-man lost everything. He sold his place or lost his mortgage and moved out. My own damage was less significant, and in the end my life after he left was so much better. My new neighbor now also has a dog who she treats well. We never talk more than a head nod as now when I’m at home, I do my best to keep a silence.