“What the hell are they doing up there now?” Frustrated by the logistics of apartment-building revenge—when your upstairs neighbors drag their furniture around every night, it’s difficult to reciprocate passive aggressively—my roommate banged a kitchen chair against the ceiling until the phone rang.
In a whimsical piece for the Threepenny Review, Javier Marías reflects on this well-known feeling of perplexed annoyance (article not available online). Here’s an excerpt:
For years, a female friend of mine had a neighbor who, as far as she was aware, always entered and left her apartment wearing sensible flat shoes; when her neighbor was at home, however, the noise made by her footsteps convinced my friend that this neighbor must immediately put on a pair of high-heeled mules, to which my friend’s imagination couldn’t resist adding a couple of pompoms to complete the image: in the end, she was utterly convinced that, each night, her discreet, sober neighbor made up for all that sober discretion by donning a negligée, the aforementioned high-heeled, pompommed mules, and, possibly, some sort of diabolical underwear, even if she wasn’t expecting a visitor. I once asked some young people about the dull, continuous “papapam” emanating from their apartment, as if they were working some kind of printing press, and their answer was even more bizarre than my imagined explanation: “Oh, we’re running an illegal whisky distillery,” they told me.