Valentine’s Day

– to Pam who said, “write this.”

I wake up to the sounds of my neighbors fucking. They’re a young couple, they just moved in. The building’s walls are thin. She’s a screamer. I saw them in the courtyard yesterday. I said hi. They ignored me and scurried into their apartment.

Their bed is banging the wall that separates us. It’s the same wall my bed is against. The same wall I prop my pillows and rest my head on. We’re probably less then a foot away from each other. They look like hippies, or Deadheads, or maybe just grungy hipsters.

She screams, “Oh god, yes!” The bed bumps the wall.

I don’t want to imagine them having sex. But it’s hard not to with all this audio aid to help the visuals.

I’m half-asleep. I got crusty eyes. My mouth is dry. It’s 8:47am on a Sunday morning. Can’t they wait until a decent hour to fuck?

I need coffee. I need more sleep. I need to buy earplugs.

They’ve only been here a week and I think they’ve had sex the entire time.

The sun is creeping in around the blinds. LA’s back to being warm now that the rain has finally left.

I get out of bed, grab my pants and put them on.

The bathroom tile is cool under my bare feet. I take a piss, brush my teeth, look in the mirror, and un-bed head my hair with my hand. Somewhere next door Madonna is singing about being like a virgin. Somehow that just doesn’t seem right.

“Oh, oh, oh,” screams my neighbor. Thump goes their bed against the wall.

I walk back into my room and search for a t-shirt. Picking one off the floor, I pull it over my head. As I slip my arms inside I look over and see the massive fishtail palm that takes up half the apartment. Yesterday I replanted it to a bigger pot. It looks so happy. I want to hug it.

The building manager is outside in the courtyard talking on his cell phone. He’s speaking Russian. His voice is deep. The smell of his cigarette floats in the open window. I imagine he is calling family back in the Ukraine, but he could just as easily be talking to someone a block away.

“Они имеют секс весь день. Он шальн,” he says and stamps out his cigarette on the concrete.

“Yes. Yes. Yes!” screams my neighbor.

When I turn towards the kitchen I can hear my other neighbor’s music – bad disco and monotonous house music he plays non-stop. The thud of the bass vibrates the wall. If I stand exactly in the middle of the room I hear thump, thump, bad music on one side. And, bang, bang, screaming sex on the other. It’s like some demented stereo torture.

I’m going insane.

Slipping on my Chucks and sunglasses, I grab some cash off my desk and open the door. Outside the sun is bright, the air warm, the courtyard is deserted.

I walk out the back gate and through the parking lot. A bag lady looks up from rummaging in the dumpster. I smile at her. She blows me a kiss. I look closer. She’s a man.

As I wait for the traffic light on Sunset I stare off along the tops of palm trees and rows of seedy apartment buildings and notice someone has covered the Hollywood sign with giant red letters that say “Save the Peak.” I not sure what the hell that means, and I don’t really care.

At Hollywood Blvd. a scruffy midget carrying an umbrella tries to hand me a brochure for a guided tour offering a drive through Beverly Hills to look at the houses of movie stars. He must be new. All the other guys hawking tours have given up on me a long time ago. I ignore him and wait for the light as two girls dressed exactly the same in pink mini skirts and orange tube tops giggle and poke each other. The midget smiles as he waves a brochure in their direction. They turn away laughing.

At Starbucks the barista leans over the counter and hugs me. She’s really cute and for some reason has taken to me. I come in every morning and we chitchat about shit all nothing. She seems to think my life is glamorous. I tell her it’s pretty tame. She says yeah, but you get up at eleven. You don’t go to a boring job. You’re always happy. You’re the coolest person that comes into the store.

I smile at her and wonder who the hell she’s talking about.

“It’s nine fifteen,” she says, looking at her watch as she hands me my latte. “What’re you doing here so early?”

“My new neighbors fuck like bunnies and they’re really loud,” I tell her. “They woke me up, now I’m here.”

“Wow. You should record them and sell it on the Internet.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” I say and wave goodbye as I walk outside.

It maybe early for me but for Hollywood Blvd. it’s just another business day as the usual mix of locals and tourists collide. A gutter punk wearing a leather jacket covered in spikes and grimy band logos points at her sick looking dog and asks for spare change. A large guy dressed in baggy checkered shorts and huge t-shirt with Michael Jackson’s face on the front takes a picture of his equally large girlfriend as she squats on the sidewalk next to Walt Disney’s star. A group of kids all in black with peg legged jeans and big hair stand around like they’re posing for a CD cover.

I take a sip of coffee and watch a cop car slowly cruise the scene. Three chords off a twangy guitar and I turn around and see Elvis standing in a doorway playing a beat-up white acoustic. He curls his lip in a sneer as he sings. “Blue, blue, blue suede shoes.” Just in case you don’t know it’s him, he’s written Elvis Presley in flowing script across the face of his guitar. This piece of authenticity is not lost on me. But it’s way too early for Elvis. He looks really tattered and out of place in the bright morning sun. His skin’s kinda gray. His dyed black hair a tad too greasy and showing blonde roots. His hand shakes as he strums. Looks like Elvis could use a fix.

I buy a newspaper at the corner store and step around the midget as he tries again to interest me in a tour. Why the hell anybody would want to drive around in a topless van just to see the homes of movie stars is beyond me? Sun burnt, breathing exhaust fumes, and surrounded by Japanese tourists taking pictures is not my idea of a good time.

When I get back to my apartment there’s a lemon sitting on the stair outside my front door. Usually they just fall off the tree that’s in the courtyard and then lie around and rot, until someone picks them up and throws them away. But the lemon tree isn’t right next to my apartment, so it had to be put there – like a gift. With the edge of my foot I kick it into the jumble of spinney succulents that are taking over the patch of dirt the dead roses used to rule. I don’t trust my neighbors. I don’t want their offerings. Who knows where that lemon’s been?

Leaving the door open to let the warm air in, I sit at my desk and look at the computer. Popping the lid off my coffee, I take a sip, and then scan my emails and see nothing but ads for offshore pharmacies selling Viagra and offers to enlarge my penis.

I wonder if movies stars in their fancy houses get emails for penis enlargement? Or are they too busy avoiding vanloads of tourist parked in their driveways?

Reluctantly I open an email from a literary magazine, and like I figured they’ve rejected one of my essays. “Whatever,” I mumble and contemplate checking Facebook, but realize I don’t have the energy. Finishing my coffee I lean back in my chair. I’d really just like to go back to bed. Go to sleep. Then wake up and start this day again.

“Fuck me, fuck me harder,” screams my neighbor.

A revised version of this essay was published in Diverse Voices Quarterly Issue 9/10 – July 2011.

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