THE NOISE

The noise coming from above has changed. I’m not sure how to describe the difference but it is louder, all the walking and talking, even the water rushing in the pipes sounds more urgent, more focused. And I don’t like it.

They arrived, an eruption of activity, and I suffered throughout the redecorating. All the hammering and the drilling and the scraping. The work is now complete and the noise is less frequent but when it comes it is in bursts, more eruptions. It seems that they are always in a hurry; forever readying for somewhere or something else.

I can hear their television but I doubt that they are sitting and watching. The music, when it comes through the ceiling, is a dense and muddy block. I suppose that in a club it would make sense but not here and, despite the volume, I can still hear them moving around but they aren’t dancing and they aren’t listening.

I have a key. My former neighbours pressed it on me, ‘in case of emergency,’ they said. I didn’t want to take it, didn’t want to be a part of anything minor or major that they might consider an emergency. ‘It’s just in case we lock ourselves out,’ she said, sensing my reluctance, ‘or if anyone needs to get in whilst we are away.’ ‘Of course,’ I had said, ‘of course I’ll take it.’

I had forgotten the key. It languishes in a drawer, alongside nuts and bolts, nails and screws, all the bits and pieces that one day might prove useful. Rummaging through, I fish it out. I hold it up to the light, reacquainting myself with it and I add it to my keychain although I am unsure why.

Having it is enough. It dangles from the ignition as I drive. Each time I unlock the door to my flat it jangles alongside the others on the chain and for a while it is enough.

I hear their door slam up on the landing. Their clatter and their chatter on the stairs and they are gone and it is quiet. But I am agitated and although they aren’t at home my anxiety doesn’t subside. When they switch the noise off it doesn’t go away and I can’t settle, not tonight.

I have the key in my hand again. I have removed it from the keyring, separated it from the others so that I can hold it. I consider damaging it, rendering it useless, unusable but how? I could take a hammer to it I suppose, force a nail punch into the grooves or place it in a vice and squeeze until it is misshapen and won’t fit. But I don’t have a vice, I don’t even have a hammer. I could of course take the key out onto the pavement and drop it down the nearest drain or I could simply return it.

I had been required, the key had been needed. I had let someone in, a workman and there had also been a delivery. I remember two men carrying something up the stairs. A fridge freezer or a washing machine, and I watched as they struggled with it along the narrow hallway and disappeared into the kitchen.

I had waited out here on the landing, shuffling in the cold without a coat, and when the men had done what they needed to do, retrieving the key I had pulled the door to.

I haven’t been inside, I haven’t as much as stepped across the threshold but I have used this key before, I have unlocked the door before and so why shouldn’t I do so again? Who will know?

I almost slip on the veneered and shiny floor and my footsteps echo. I move slowly and try to stifle the clatter of my feet but I can’t, not up here, and of course it doesn’t matter. There isn’t any need for stealth. I am alone.

I move more quickly, now stamping and stomping loudly. I switch on the lights and, letting the flat glare, I take it in. All is uniform and strangely fresh. There is a fragrance in the air and, breathing deeply, I am reminded of an office. It is sparse – minimalist and modern, not built for comfort. It isn’t any wonder that the young couple can’t settle but they will of course move on. Perhaps together, perhaps not, but both of them will enjoy more, will have bigger and better. This is just a beginning.

I resist the urge to rifle through their belongings, to mess with the scatter cushions. And in the kitchen I sit on a high stool at the glass counter and wait.

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19 comments

  1. j.h. white

    Madness! A young couple just moved from the flat above me so this was very entertaining. The key dangling from his key chain as he drives… wonderful details. But the last sentence, Mark…waiting? I’m completely thrown by this. Should I be hearing the music from a Hitchcock movie? Waiting for what? Arghh… 🙂

      • j.h. white

        You’d make a good psychological profiler, Mark. I’ve been thinking about a better way to express my response to this piece. It was very visceral…I could almost hear the character breathing….To complete the story, as a reader, I think I just needed a few more words of foreplay before the climax of the last sentence. LOL…had to think twice before using this analogy but it says it best. 🙂

      • markrenney1

        Yes I know what you mean – the ending is sudden and shocking. Perhaps I should have wrestled with this character for a little longer but I was only really interested in getting him in to the flat and I didn’t consider a way out for him. Thank you Jana for spending time with this piece – I really do appreciate it. Poetry of Light is. Treasure trove, a box of wonders and I will be delving in again soon. Regards Mark.

    • markrenney1

      You are not the first to see something filmic in my writing and film is one of my great obsessions
      I really appreciate your thoughts regards Mark

    • markrenney1

      Thank you StacyMichelle for taking time to read and comment. With regard to the ending – see my conversation with Jana. Regards Mark.

  2. eebrinker

    the thing that is so funny is same here………neighbor stomps back and forth like a lion in a cage, rather than normal noises of a human being in a home. i don’t understand anyone who lives like that, and believe they deserve to find someone waiting for them….. but that’s just me. 🙂

  3. markrenney1

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I suspect you are not alone in feeling other people’s noise is annoying. Regards Mark.

  4. penpusherpen

    Oooo, I like this, so much, (mayhap that tells more about me than I would wish 😉 ) but it appeals, as I think (hope and believe too) that everyone has noise issues and ’tis not just moi’. Others intrude with their ? what shall I call it? personal ideals? wooden floors, (stomp and click) Latest bass boom stereos/MP3/Ipods (made for bursting t’eardrums) the list is endless, and all go on next door, plus a li’l doggie who’s left for hours, barking… and should I perchance gain their key? my oh my, what a story ending that would be. Now, where was I? Oh yes, I like this so much. 🙂 xx

  5. markrenney1

    What a lovely and brilliant way to express your liking for this piece. This is the post most people have commented on and yes, I think there is too much empty noise forced upon us. Thank you so much. Regards Mark.

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