Alarum

by Jonah

Our upstairs neighbor isn’t around much. I think she spends most nights at her boyfriend’s place, coming back now and then to feed her cat (we’ve seen lurking in the window). This is good for a couple of reasons. On weekends especially, we tend to lose track of time and have the stereo up loud way into the night. When she is home, the floor creaks and groans, the washing machine rattles the walls, but it usually isn’t too bad.

On Saturday night we went to bed late. After we had crawled in bed, we heard our neighbor climb the stairs and slam the door of her apartment. Then she jumped around and practiced some dance moves while rearranging furniture. Actually, I imagined she was packing. She finally exhausted, and we fell asleep. This was between one and two in the morning.

At five a.m. the clumping began again. I guess she didn’t get much sleep. We heard her hurry out the door. I imagined she was catching a Sunday morning red-eye. We went back to sleep and got up much later.

At five a.m. Monday morning Berck woke me up by saying something about how the alarm was impossible to sleep through. That woke me up enough to hear it. Our neighbor had set her alarm to get up on Sunday morning but hadn’t turned it off. It must be a pretty loud alarm, because we could hear it just fine through the ceiling. “I wonder if she’s dead,” Berck said. I said I thought she was out of town for the week. We had to listen to the alarm for an hour before it turned itself off an hour later after starting. We got back to sleep at five-thirty.

Berck was restless after that. Maybe it’s a good thing I slept lightly after that. I opened my eyes, and there seemed to be too much sunlight coming through the window. I glanced at the clock. 7:25. I usually leave for work at seven-twenty. I dashed out the door as Berck yelled at me to drive carefully, and I still clocked in at 08:00.

We heard our neighbor get back last night. I suggested Berck go ask her to turn the alarm off, but we figured she’d find out for herself at four-thirty a.m.

Unfortunately, she left again. I woke up this morning at four-thirty when the alarm went off. I tried not to stir so as not to wake Berck, but I had to turn over so my good ear was in the pillow. That wasn’t enough, so I put another pillow over my head. That worked. But by then Berck was awake, so going back to sleep wasn’t going to happen with his ongoing commentary. Berck eventually got up and tried to figure out which circuit breaker was our neighbor’s so he could turn off her power, but they weren’t labeled well. We had to wait out the alarm. At five-thirty we finally got back to sleep.

Today I left a note on our neighbor’s door, should she come home and leave again. We just heard her clump up the stairs, and I don’t think she’s left. Maybe we’ll sleep through tonight.

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