With experience from living in apartments in Sweden, I have been amazed at the quietness of our neighbours in our apartment building (or mansion as we say here). Apart from the front door (I am sorry, I mean the metal sheet covering the entrance to our apartment) which lets through all the sound from anyone walking outside on the parapet, and apart from when the next door neighbour enters her apartment and it sounds like she is opening the door to ours, I have almost never heard any noise at all from our neighbours. Until recently I could not make out what was the main contributing factor to this – considerate quiet neighbours or good soundproofing of walls and ceilings (that unfortunately is not preventing sounds from the opening of front doors). With a newly born baby, I have been rooting for the sound proofing theory – so much less stress when our baby screams in the middle of the night.
Then suddenly, last week-end, a new feeling crashed down on me – we are actually living in a house with paper thin walls (although not the kind of beautiful paper thin paper walls I have come to love in old Japanese houses with their tatami rooms and sliding doors – how I would love to live in such a house). In our concrete mansion building walls and ceiling suddenly seem to have evaporated into thin air, being replaced by a thin curtain of sound. We must have gotten a new neighbour, I told my wife, listen. And the following days we have been discovering sounds that we have not ever heard before – the heavy scraping of veranda doors being opened, the sounds of laundry being distributed across the balcony, the thuds of objects being put down on the floor, the sound of footsteps and of drawers closing.
This our new neighbour solved my above mentioned conundrum – most people living here seem to be almost unhumanly quiet and considerate of each other (although a little oil for our next door neighbour’s door would certainly not hurt). But this also opened up a new aspect to wonder about – what about us, our noise? Our baby screaming aside (now I am sure that the hole building must be able to hear him), are our neighbours always hearing me and my wife living our not so loud but not overly quiet every day lives? Have they been hearing noise from our apartment all this time? Are we the only couple living here, the only ones that talk and listen to music and watch Netflix shows?
I find myself looking at the walls, thinking about what they might have let though these past two years. Our baby is often looking at the walls. Ever since he came home from the hospital he sometimes fixes his gaze on the walls or on the ceiling, seemingly without any obvious reason for his interest – I wonder what he sees. Is he daydreaming or just resting his gaze on a uniform surface with his mind not really knowing that there are eyes looking? Or is he seeing some cute little angels and ghosts floating in the air, wanting to communicate with him? How I wish I could borrow his eyes and see what he sees. That is part of the dream of becoming a father really, a dream of being able to discover the world together through the eyes of his child. I kind of like the idea of ghosts and angels – maybe he can one day share with me what he is looking at.
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