He lives with me, here in this apartment. I can hear his voice through the walls. Sometimes it shouts; other times it coos with affection. The girl who lives in the room next to mine lets him inside when he taps on her bedroom window, two solid raps with his knuckles on the glass, and she’s running to the door. He doesn’t have a key; he doesn’t need one. He leaves when he pleases. I hear heavy footsteps against the tile floor and the door slam shut. I wish I knew where he went. But even more, I want to know why he doesn’t just stay there.
Some nights she cooks for him. They eat in the kitchen, forks scraping on plastic plates echo down the hall. Why do they use plastic? It’s cheaper, but it won’t last as long. Maybe he likes that. Some days I don’t notice him here at all. Other nights he brings a friend over, and I stay up listening to them say things that I wouldn’t repeat. Don’t people sleep anymore?
Most of the time, she is with him. If I pass the open door of her bedroom, I can see her seated by the desk, and him strewn across the bed like he owns it. If I were her, I’d make him share. The strangeness comes when she leaves and he stays. She should take him with her.
My heart quickens when I hear him coughing in her room, the kind of cough that sounds chronic, loud. If she isn’t in there, why is he? I want to tell her to make him leave. It isn’t right for him to always be hanging around, staying without being invited. Maybe she loves this man who climbs through windows and leaves dirty footprints down the hall. I wish I knew. He must smoke a lot to have a cough like that. Why do people smoke when they know it’s bad for them? I don’t know, but I do know that he can hear me stir in my room. I can feel it. I stop putting away my clothes in case the clank of the drawers closing catches his attention. When it gets really quiet, I try not to breathe so the noise doesn’t remind him that I’m here too.
Doors open and close. Water starts running and his voice is crooning a familiar song. I’ve heard it before, but it seems out of tune. His voice is anything but perfect, and I wonder why he sings so loud, like he thinks people would want to hear him. He knows I can hear him. The faucet squeaks and the water ceases to pitter on the bathtub floor. Shower rings slide across the bar and the door opens, its hinges scraping together producing a slow creak.
I don’t want him to knock on my door, like he does on hers. I want him to forget that I’m alive behind these walls, but how can he with my constant exhale? I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t open up to him too if he came knocking, maybe then he could give me answers to these things I don’t know. Two raps against the metal paneling of my bedroom door sound out a loud twang in the silence. I’m afraid to find out.