Paper Thin Walls

Paper Thin Walls

April 5th, 2015

Recently I moved into a new apartment with the very flexible and flap-happy Jake Ayres.  It’s a modest 2BR in SE Portland, nestled on the side of Mt. Tabor in a quiet valley of neighborhood pubs and coffeehouses (I understand that describes about 80% of this city).  There’s a view, a balcony, and as of this past weekend, three deck chairs.  Jake and I have been referring to our new abode as both “Hunky Junction” and “The Jizz Factory.”  It’s a nice setup, and I’ve been blaming my blog’s ennui on the newness of all this.

Thing is, I have been writing.  Last week I had the bug, churning out mediocre poems at an alarming rate.  In faux-squatter fashion I pulled my mattress into the living room and squared it against the wall; desperate scrawlings kept me afloat through the malaise of Spring Break.  But last Wednesday I hit the wall.  I puttered, incessantly, and stalled.  I wrote a crappy poem.  I forced myself into bed with promises: tomorrow, everything is getting organized.  Everything.  I fell asleep, briefly, then stirred awake to discover a significant caveat.

The walls bleed sound.

Some sort of gathering was happening in next unit, just a few feet from the crown of my head: maybe a movie, maybe a board game, definitely a few friends drinking and chatting.  They were not that loud.  Through the porous plaster, their speech became a pudding.  It kept me up.  The combined drawls stretched out into a slur of meaningless inflection and crescendo, trailings-off.  Certain spans I could make out every word.  A pudding with sharp chunks of candied orange.

In my delirium I made a vow.  From now on I’m going to curse less.  The American male douchebag accent (that doesn’t count) places inordinate stress on one word above all others: fuck.  I recall phrases vividly: “dwood, dwou dobally fucking called it!” or “droubble droo, doodle doo– dwiddle, doo doh fucking wayyy!!” or “dowoubly dur doh dohh “doh fawwwwwkkkk.”

Every morning at 7am I show up at my school and have to listen to high schooler’s early morning lobby chatter.  Speech is never so hideous.  “…fucking shit!” is not uncommon.  I can hear everything –  very, very ugly words.  I just want to walk over to one girl, Maddie, place my palm on her forehead, and whisper “stop.”  But they’ll grow out of it.  I get it now, Mom, why you take umbrage with some of my Yelp reviews.

Those restless hours last Wednesday conjured fantasies of a simpler, more nuanced existence where nobody needs to speak, and when speech is necessary, it cuts to the bone.  A vague pan-Asian vision, with hints of Scandinavia, the speech rhythms of the Baltics.  Exotic, but not unfamiliar, the grace of a tacit demeanor is not beyond the American imagination.  Some of my favorite screen heroes are quiet types.  Ghost Dog.  Omar from The Wire.  I’ll lie and add Travis Bickle, but I haven’t seen Taxi Driver in years.

Am I rallying for anything?  Not really.  I’m just trying to curse less – hold me to it, please.  I dragged the mattress next to the fridge and let its drone consume me.  Then it was morning.  I woke up, made an egg, and organized everything.



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