It’s odd how much of a sense of a neighbor’s life you can get just from muffled sounds through the wall. My neighbor to the north, for instance, has a cold and has been playing very loud dude-shooting video games since Tuesday, while making endless cups of tea (or possibly TheraFlu). He is about one more day of sickness away from losing his temper with his brother. My neighbor to the south has been shouting at the Olympics without ceasing for the better part of a week. He is shouting when I wake up in the morning. He is shouting when I come home from work. He is shouting when I go to bed, although more often the evening shouting is on the phone and involves the news. It’s possible to tune almost all of this out, but sometimes I let it in just out of curiosity. And sometimes I wonder if they tune me out, or if they pay attention and know when I’m sick or sad or happy.

None of this, of course, must ever be mentioned when any of us meet in passing. Which is another oddity of urban life.

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