It was like watching a car accident. I could hear his body falling into hers through the wall. What
a sick tune. What an unfortunate melody. I listened for harmonies but only managed to decipher
groans and grunts. I heard the tires squeal and somebody pumping their breaks. So hard. So
fast. But it was no use. Not for either of us. I couldn’t turn away from the noises. The driver
I heard the crash.
I felt him slam into her, over and over. I listened for the damage. All I got was the sound of their
friction. Breathing quickened in those last few moments.
I listened, hoping for radio silence, only to be met with a symphony of bed springs. It seemed to
go on forever, I remember it playing as if it was on a loop. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard
these noises, but it had been a while.
It had been a messy, unorganized split that time. They kept me up, banging pots and pans until
my eardrums felt raw. Their break-up sex had my head ringing for days. I was almost relieved
when I heard the door slam behind her. When I felt the click-clack of her heels slipping through
the hallway and down the steps that’s when the numbness crept back in. I listened to the rumble
of furniture upstairs as he reorganized the apartment into his “bachelor pad”.
I didn’t like the music he played when he was alone. It was the kind of sadness that knocks you
backwards and still keeps pushing. He played them on a loop – over and over again until I
feared they were drowning him. They were drowning me. Even now I can’t listen to Sinatra
without gasping for breath half-way through. He didn’t sing, although I couldn’t really remember
if he had before. Maybe she had been the one all along. I missed her for a while, but it wasn’t
very long and then she was back. I didn’t notice for a few days. Not until I heard the shower
running and then two pairs of feet as they settled in the tub. I wasn’t sure at first – but I knew it
was her from the soft giggles I heard through the pipes.
I missed her voice, too.
Someone padded barefoot across the hall. I knew this because I’d just about memorized the
creaks in their floorboards. I imagined the colour of their walls – a light, creamy blue. Nothing like
the mustard yellow that Ana had insisted that we paint ours. I waited for more footsteps. After a
while, I gave up. The record player collected dust in the far corner of my bedroom. The electric
keyboard, long since unplugged, haunted me with memories of her fingertips leaving waves of
goosebumps across my skin. I could have gotten rid of them years ago. But it’s like watching a
car crash, I still can’t seem to bring myself look away. I can’t forgive myself for replaying our
songs or hearing her voice in my head.
Just one more time.
They were at it again sometime time later. I heard the couch as it squirmed under their weight. I
know they sometimes try to wiggle one of the cushions between the wall and the arm but this
time around they must have been forgetful. I sometimes try to imagine what they must look like –
some days they are lustful twenty-somethings with fire in their bellies and courage in their loins.
Other days, I picture a woman in her mid-forties with three kids and a minivan parked outside
our apartment building still registered under her husband’s name who ran off to get nailed by
some down-on-his-luck type.
I don’t know why their story matters.
Somedays I like to pretend that they’re in love. At least, that they were once. Even if all they are
now is a piece of meat for each other, at one point they used to give a shit. Maybe there had
even been a time when they considered it. I bet he tried to tell her he loved her and she broke
his heart. That kind of thing happens all the time.
I can’t be the only one.
Listening to them on the couch is more like watching grass grow or paint dry. My theory is that
the couch is just so comfortable that they sink right in. Like the furniture is trying to tell them to
cut it out, but they won’t listen. They don’t care about anyone hearing them. They go on for ages
and ages. In the meantime, I can’t cook. I can’t clean. I can’t even read the paper. With the two
of them going at it up there all I can muster up is a long queue of unfortunate memories. I don’t
like those much.
She used to play the violin. I thought to ask her to teach me once, but I forgot again once she
walked in the door. Once she walked in the door I could forget just about anything. I’d manage a
word or two before everything I knew was wiped clean out of my mind. A brand-new slate. As
soon as I heard the front door wheeze as it swung open I had already lost half my train of
thought. I couldn’t help but ease into that sweet Nirvana of nothingness. Once she walked in the
door I was like putty in her hands.
A loud bang. Had someone fallen? Maybe he’d swung her off the couch. Maybe she’d gotten off
only to drink some water. Maybe it was her turn on top. Maybe he liked it better that way. Maybe
I should stop listening. Another bang. This one was different than before. It seemed to linger,
echo. The sound was moving. Building momentum. It was more forceful than the last. I heard a
noise escape her lips. I wondered if that made him happy.
Ana had freckles on her back. I liked to watch as them as we moved together. The way they
rolled over her spine and circled the scar she’s earned from a pickup game of hockey that she
always brought up.
My brothers thought it was a great idea, sometimes she would chuckle as she said this. Other
times the memory was like a bad taste in her mouth. She’d be quick to spit it out. In this case,
it’d been the latter. I could never figure out why. They said if I wanted to play I’d have to show I
was tough like a boy. ‘No pads,’ my brothers were asses. I told her how I liked her ass better.
Most of the time she wouldn’t laugh, but she did once. Wiped a tear from her eye and told me
she loved me. I remember the taste of her tears and the smile that shaped her lips as she
pressed them to mine.
They’d stopped. I took this time to make myself a cup of tea. I used the same mug every time. I
didn’t bother to buy new sets if they weren’t needed. This one worked just fine, Ana had made it
special for me.
The last time we fucked I knew she was leaving me for that other guy, but I couldn’t help it. All
that mattered at that moment was that she was still mine. For a few moments longer, I’d try to
hold it, try to hold her. I knew it wasn’t what she wanted. I knew it was about work, about her
family. At the time it was the kind of life I had no use for, but the kind of life she wanted, the kind
of life that was taken away before she’d even had a chance.
I watched Ana’s car pull out of the lot after she left my place. It was our place, but she’d left. I
got the call from her mother about an hour later. Some idiot had run a red light and smashed
into her blue corolla. Ana didn’t make it. The funeral was on Sunday. They had decided to have
her cremated. Already it felt like I was forgetting the colour of her eyes and the shape of my
favourite constellations. I didn’t bother telling her mom about the break-up. Ana had left her too,
and somehow I felt like my loss didn’t count. I listened to Ana’s records on repeat for about a
month. I only stopped when the neighbours moved in. They had their own music. It was louder,
more painful than mourning Ana the normal way. I didn’t like the noises they made, why put up
with a somebody that makes sounds like that while you’re making love?
A few minutes later I hear them click on the TV. I like this sound even less. It means I need to
move onto something else. I’ve got plenty but none of it will bring back Ana. I hear sirens
coming from their episode of Law & Order. It is too loud, too much.
I storm into the kitchen. I grab the broom. I march with purpose into the living room. I begin to lift
the rod to the ceiling. I’m about to start banging when all of a sudden there is a knock at my
It’s Ana’s mom.
In her hands is a box marked in loopy script, ANA MISC. She pulls out an envelope. Bulky,
yellowing over the edges. I see my name written on the label. I waste no time in ripping it open,
only to reveal a cassette.
Who even uses cassettes anymore?