The Woman Downstairs
The woman downstairs heard every noise that wasn't there. Her husband was no longer there to snore and roll in his sleep, so she turned her ears to the small thumps and shallow breaths of the people upstairs. Every sound in the dark resonated like a bomb exploding. She would wake up to listen, and then roll from her bed to write letters, to perhaps hear some sympathy. She would press the send button, thrusting her indignant cries out into the night, to send rude awakenings to the morning recipients who had to do something to stop her letters from waking them, after everything had changed and the noises vanished. Even though there were the same soft thumps and shallow breaths, the daylight provided a sound buffer. A sound wall. Something for her obsessive thoughts and unsound mind to ricochet off.
She kept a notebook by her pillow, ready for the next midnight assault and her onslaught of complaints. Her two-bedroom suite caused too much noise. Silence can be loud. Her letters began to fly around the world - out of her head, fingers and room. Her lonely dementia; a one-dimensional life. And the letters came back, acknowledged. Her thoughts confirmed. There was a sound in the world and she kept everyone awake with it - presidents, council members, plumbers, carpenters, teachers, government servants, and the writers, who wrote more replies and received more letters.
Every complaint reached the door of the people living with their small thumps and soft breaths upstairs who barricaded themselves in layers of carpet, sweaters, and stacked boxes. The quiet people who she dream of in the night, living themselves into a corner of existence who had enough of paper, who protested fiercely. The people who defended their slow breaths and late night thumps on the hard surface - their floor, her ceiling. Noise trickles through the cracks, old pipes bursting, and rotting walls.
How could they not hear each other? How could they live? The woman's empty bed, cold and deprived of her late husband's soft breaths in the night, his footfall on the floor going to run water through the old pipes in the night. Her adversity to the low sounds of breathing, and other people living.