A Storm Through The Walls

Warning: Potential domestic abuse trigger

The roar of the sky falling outside drowned out anything remotely soft spoken. The nature of the sound obscured any actual words, but the emotion behind the violent screaming in the neighbor’s apartment was clear. It had been building for weeks. At first there were just sporadic shouts of anger and the sounds of doors and cabinets slamming, but the regularity and intensity had escalated.

In the beginning the baby would start screaming and they’d settle down a bit. I think it’s just the two of them down there now; I stopped hearing the baby a week ago, and only the two adults come and go anymore.

I think the baby acted as landfall does for a building storm over the ocean. Without it there to be emotionally damaged by their fighting, the storm just gained speed and momentum.
Today, as the storm broke outside and the rain started coming down, something definitely came to a head downstairs too. The emotion I felt through the walls had become intimidating. There had always been anger and hatred in the words, but it was hard to attribute this level of shouting to anything but fits of violent rage.

Wind pushed sheets of rain against my window for a brief instant of percussion, drowning out even the loudest hollers for a moment.

Was someone in danger down there? If so, who? It was easy to assume that abuse went from man to woman if it was there at all, but that isn’t always the case. What was my duty as a good neighbor? Do I mind my own business and let them work out their own problems? Was I supposed to call the police? How did one explain their reason for calling?
“The emotion coming through my walls is getting violent,” sounds about as legitimate as a man wandering around the hardware store offering to sell a $100 gift card for $75, cash only. But the interpolation of human emotion is an alarmingly precise tool. Does one need to understand Italian to know exactly what is happening in Rigoletto when Gilda goes into that house dressed like a man? Does one need to be fluent in French to feel Don Jose’s rage and desperation building near the end of Carmen?

I needed to be up early the following morning, but my heartburn was acting up and, of course, the walls were shaking with anger as the rain pounded my windows. So I sat up, trying to pretend that I was getting some work done, but I wasn’t; I was listening to the raging war through the wall, wondering about my civic duty.

Then it stopped. All of a sudden, without warning, and seemingly in the middle of a sentence, it stopped.

Why was I not relieved?

Why did my blood run cold when the torrent of angry words suddenly dipped below the sounds from the raging downpour? They could still be talking in a more civilized tone and I’d have no idea, but somehow I doubted it.

Something had happened and they had both fallen silent.

Was somebody dead?

“Excuse me officer, I’d like to report a potential murder; my neighbors stopped yelling at each other.”

Yeah, sure, buddy.


This is a work of fiction intended to paint an emotional picture and, thus, nobody was hurt by the protagonist being self involved and musing instead of reporting the incident. In real life, if you suspect domestic abuse of any kind for any reason, call the police and report it or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for advice, and do so immediately.
If you fear reprisal, request anonymity when you call. If you are worried about being wrong, sounding dumb, or wasting the time of the police, consider the alternative for a brief moment; what if it turns out that you are right, but you do nothing?
Make the call.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233
and there is more information on their website http://www.thehotline.org


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