The couple in the next room fight all the time. Through paper-thin walls, my husband and I hear the shouting, the insults shot bullet-like back and forth. Invisible weaponry in a largely invisible war.
Usually we have the music on, or the TV, so we can drown it out. But it’s in the silence between songs or when the conversation drops during a movie that the fighting in the next room catches us off guard. A yell. A thud. The sound of a sobbing child. Piercing the solitude in our home, setting our teeth on edge, making us nervous for reasons we can’t quite explain.
At night when my husband switches off the TV and takes me in his arms, the sound of our quick breaths and long sighs fill my head, leaving room for nothing else. But later, when we lie in bed with nothing to distract us, we listen quietly as the shouting continues into the night. I can see worry lines deepen on my husband’s usually smooth forehead when he hears the little boy pleading with his parents to stop, the babyish voice heavy with tears. I jump involuntarily as the sharp sound rings out – a hand striking soft skin. The crying is silenced.
I reach to hold my husband but he turns away and I know he’ll be awake long after I fall asleep. I know he wants to interfere somehow to help the little one in the next room, but he never does. No one interfered for him.