A young man and woman live in the building next door. They and I are at such close proximity that when they watch the TV at night, my bedroom is bathed in dim light and vague shadows dance on the ceiling and wall. The shadows move in perfect sync with the sound of the TV programs that they watch; I could be watching a show myself, on my wall, where the screen has no lined boundary and the shapes are hazy. On regular intervals, the audience in the TV would roar with laughter. But I never heard the man and the woman laugh. Maybe their voices would be buried in the audience’s. While they watched their shows on the TV, I watched mine on the wall. Our late night routines must have started synchronizing as well, as I would fall asleep only after their favorite programs would end.

One night, it was quiet. I was tired, and before I could feel thankful about small mercies, deep sleep overcame me. I must have been asleep for a while when a rude, continuous moan shook me out of my blissful state of existence. It was the woman. I grabbed my pillow, my eyes wide open and breath quick. It took me a few seconds to make out the man’s voice entwined in hers, slower and surer. The moans grew louder, and I couldn’t make out the woman’s from the man’s. I stared at the darkness, long after the voices had quietened down abruptly.

The next evening, I tried to read a book, determined to not let any noise bother me. Maugham’s short stories about a wartime spy, who was also a writer, in the British Intelligence. I experienced a moment of quiet but couldn’t concentrate fully. I heard the woman say, “Please go and change. Will you?” “No, not now. Don’t bother me.” “Please. Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

“I’ll do it. I told you. Why do you keep on repeating the same thing a hundred times? Leave me alone for sometime. I’ll do it.”