Who were they?
I don’t even know their names. I just got their last names from the mailbox. The man told me his name once, but I forgot. I was too embarrassed to ask again. He lived with his wife or girlfriend.
Most of what I know about them I observed indirectly. They lived directly below me. They were loud people. I heard plenty.
They fought. A lot. Usually in the evening when I had friends over, our conversations would get interrupted by their arguments. I always heard him screaming at her. She sometimes said things back to him, but her voice was never as loud. A few times, their fighting was so bad that it would wake me up in the middle of the night. He would scream “SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP” and she would murmur something in response and he would freak out all over again.
Sometimes I would see them as I entered my building. He would smile and say hi. She would ignore me. They never had any guests over. Sometimes they came home late at night, presumably after a night out. They didn’t dress particularly well. Sneakers and comfortable clothes. Nothing flashy. Graying hair.
He was a musician. Many evenings he would play drums (or maybe it was her) around 5:30 or 6PM. He used to sing scales while playing the piano, but he hadn’t done that in many months.
Sometime last fall or summer, they wrote a song together. It was written over several weeks. It started with them singing with acoustic guitar. There were only two lines. Then they recorded it and added a drum beat. I thought it was a silly song with very cliche lyrics and an uninventive melody. I never thought it could mean anything sinister.
“Don’t turn away from me. I’ll never let you be.”
Sometimes she would sit outside in the building’s walkway and talk quietly on the phone. The only time I heard him on the phone was a few months ago. He was very angry with the person on the phone. At the time, I thought he was on the phone with his manager or producer. Something had gone wrong. Something about money.
About two months ago, one of them got into the habit of opening the door to the back yard (the door always made a lot of noise) and throwing a ceramic flower pot against the garden wall. It went on for about a month. It made a huge pile of broken glass on the garden floor. I thought it was a therapy technique assigned to them by their therapist. But one day it stopped and the pile of glass was cleaned up. Mostly.
It wasn’t all bad. One night I remember hearing them laughing unstoppably together. He was making her laugh. He would say something again and again and she would laugh like crazy.
The last thing I ever heard from them was on last Wednesday morning. One of them started playing the drums around 8 AM which was unusual. Then Saturday the smell started.
The police had come to the apartment after the super found them. Apparently they removed the bodies and sealed off the apartment for further investigation. Double suicide. They put plastic bags over their heads and inserted a tube connected to a helium tank.
His shoes are still sitting outside the apartment door.
It still reeks here. This damp, stale, rotten smell. Gas produced by bacteria decomposing human flesh. Thick air that you don’t want to put into your lungs. Their apartment door is sealed off with a sheet of plastic and tape. The smell still wafts into my apartment windows. I keep on thinking that that’s all that is left of them. Rotten flesh that is smelled by their neighbors.