I only know my neighbors by the time of day I feel their bass, or hear their truck engines start up outside. Their squeakings and stirrings through the ceiling and walls, the sound of their kids’ occasional cries. I know who lives alone because I seldom hear voices on the other side of that wall. But there are no names, and it’s uncanny how seldom I see their faces.
Still, there’s a community in my building. We don’t rap on the walls when someone’s being loud, but we’re not really that loud. We don’t tow each other away when our reserved parking spots get swiped for a night, or two. We may smile at somebody’s kid or dog, but not at each other.
It’s comfort at a distance. When the nameless guys downstairs turn on their TV and make me eavesdrop on Sports Center, I think of them as my big brothers, who I can go down and visit any old time. Like I’m back in my parents’ big house, where from my bedroom I hear forks on plates or the white noise of Matlock in the living room. It was always nice to go to sleep knowing somebody else was still up, somewhere in the house. It was nice to know the creaking floorboards were because of them, and not whatever monster I may have dreamed up. It’s nice to know you’re not alone, when you’re asleep or awake.