When my neighbors in apartment 2D moved out, I fantasized about the ruckus I could cause within my own humble, white-walled space on East 62nd Street now that my neighbors were gone. My 21-year-old Jewish self dreamed of shamelessly blasting Beyoncé’s rendition of “Ave Maria” and watching Kim Kardashian argue with her sisters at full volume. I imagined scooping out Greek yogurt from the container and into my breakfast bowl, clanking the metal spoon against the rim to get every last bit without care for waking up the couple next door. Then I realized I couldn’t, because although my neighbors moved out, my husband still lived with me. Little did I realize that empty space next door would bring passion back to my own pad.
The day 2D moved out, I came home from work to see Irv beat me there. Without a glace in my direction, Irv’s fingers ran across the neck of his treasured Les Paul, his right foot slamming the guitar pedals as his head moved to the beat of the latest Mumford & Sons track. The amp was on full volume when I made my way to the couch, throwing myself in front of the TV. Jay-Z was on Oprah that afternoon and my fascination with his pop star wife embarrassingly exceeds my appreciation for European rock bands.
“Would you mind moving your party upstairs?” I asked Irv, trying to have my voice heard while playing up my exhaustion.
“Upstairs” in our duplex basically means “up the five steps” to the wall-less bedroom. Our one-bedroom apartment is more like a one-room apartment, with the kitchen, living area and bedroom all within view of each other. A perfect set-up for a couple that first moved in together after marriage, assuming our wedded bliss would outshine the need for privacy and alone time, as in alone-fromeach-other time.
“I guess,” Irv said. He unplugged the amp and replaced his electric with an acoustic guitar.
The next few minutes hosted an unspoken competition of who would back down from the other’s noise. As his pick strummed the guitar strings louder, I raised the volume on Oprah’s voice. We eventually succumbed to watching The Office together and waiting for the Indian restaurant on the corner to deliver our meal, halflaughing and half-annoyed at the situation.
It was a typical weeknight.
I met Irv three years earlier at a mutual friend’s engagement party. I knew him as the lead singer of his Brooklyn-based band, The Perfect Mistake, although I didn’t let him know that.
“Hi, I’m Irv. What’s your name?” he asked narcissistically from behind his black-rimmed glasses, squeezing next to me at the bar. He was 21 at the time, touring the East Coast and studying music at Brooklyn College. I introduced myself and told him I was a dancer, taking classes at Broadway Dance Center. After a couple of drinks, he invited me to the dance floor.
“So since you’re a pro, tell me, how are my dancing skills?” he asked with a sexy confidence. Slightly buzzed and trying to keep my eyes off of his lips, I replied, “Not too bad for a rock star.”
Despite my poor flirting skills, we got married last November. Because of our interests, people assume our marriage is perfectly overflowing with creativity. Unfortunately, we’re not creative enough to learn how to coexist. Just as things started to get really bad—we were tackling three Office episodes a night—the vacant apartment next door became a willing third to spice up our rutted lives.
At first Irv and I hadn’t thought much about 2D, and we just used it as storage space for junk and extra six-packs of beer. One night, when I seriously wanted to catch up on recorded Chelsea Lately episodes, Irv came up with a brilliant idea: He picked up his guitar and went next door to jam.
I exhaled. I poured myself a glass of wine and threw my hair up in a messy bun. I ran sweatpants-clad to the kitchen, where I grabbed a dozen Oreo cookies and brought them to the couch. I vegged out like I never had before. It was amazing! Three Kardashian episodes and a Beyoncé concert later, I almost didn’t notice when Irv walked in the door. Turns out he had a pretty fantastic time himself. He looked like he was glowing with a new sort of intoxication.
Over the past few weeks, he had struggled with writer’s block. Now, the wifeless emptiness next door really struck a chord of inspiration with him. This arrangement for leisure activities seemed a little illicit—and sexy.
When he came home in the evenings from working out at New York Sports Club, I stopped practicing routines in the mirror to join him for dinner before we parted ways. I ordered in milkshakes from the diner on the corner and read Nicholas Sparks while he strummed away next door. I sometimes caught myself humming along to the music through the walls and appreciating the sound of his muffled voice. When he would come back home, sometimes after an hour and sometimes after two, we enjoyed the rest of the night together. Our new pal 2D had a knack for bringing us together while it drew us apart.
Last week I came home to see movers trying to squeeze a bed through 2D’s doors, but I didn’t panic as much as I thought I would. I think I indulged in my selfishness enough that I’m ready to share my space with Irv again. Plus it’s way more efficient to order milkshakes with another person—one chocolate and one vanilla. All of that decision-making was driving me crazy.