January 24, 2012

Loud sex, quiet love.

To shout or not to shout.

© Elliot Erwitt, Tate Gallery, 1993.

I have a wild neighbor. She’s been bitten by love in such a way that she wants us all to know.

But just knowing is not enough anymore. Nowadays you must go mystical or disappear; believe everything with all your heart, body and soul; love your mother, love god and love chocolate. You have to get touchy feely with life, Amélie, or end up in the Lonely asylum.

As a believer, then, you must have faith in her love. What else but faith can be so unwavering and warm; consistent and rapturous? And as a tired listener, what else could you do but wake up like a sleepy sinner and pay your halleluiahs in a yawn? You be that second soprano under covers at ungodly hours, because at least someone in this building is having the time of her life. It makes me wonder if they have a job.

It’s really kind of her to share her joy with me, through walls so thin I can almost hear that pair of heartbeats in crescendo, with the excitement of a symphony. A wet theatre of the mind? Not sure if that was in my evening plans (at least not as a listener).

But it’s awfully kind of her, especially if you’re single and live alone and don’t even have a cat since your apartment is too small for pets and you wouldn’t have time to pet them anyway because you have to lie awake at night and write about your neighbor’s excitement. Breath-ing-deep-ly.

I don’t mean to be the Spanish Inquisition here; because when not separated from the whole, I do regard sex as a spiritual experience. I too may have let a love-shout escape the censure of the throat every now and then.

As if it weren’t just too easy to go down in vocal flames when yummy fire turns you into a French toast. Deliciously not-guilty, father, I have not sinned. Just as others must be shouting as we speak. Over the rooftops.

The point is not the ah-ahh-ahhhhh you serenade, hoping it’s raining outside or that the world is wearing headphones. The point is daily hot-coal sessions with your neighbors; orgies you haven’t even invited them to; Eros sonatas you force them into listening. Is this when you applaud? No, hold your fire. Not for two more acts. Save your applauses ‘til the end. But all I want to do is call the sex police before she hits replay.

If you’re not her but me, quietly typing-tyyyping-tyyyyping, on the other side of the wall; or just about to have an important video call on Skype with people half-way around the world, the first thing you do is pause and smile. You want to tell somebody, it’s like good high school gossip: “Shh, quiet, did you hear that? Is it a cat? A baby? Or is it what I think it is?”

[Warning: the following video contains some nudity, some shouts, some sex & some life]



Next thing in line is laughing –uncomfortably– at yourself. And then you hear her asking him to f*ck her harder-haarder-haaaarder, and think, “Oh God, should I go for walk?” Now you wish you’d watched porn that one time in college, or that other time after college or anytime before today; maybe you’d know what to do.

But you’re the kind of cute and dorky girl who hasn’t and you’re not sure exactly what they call these situations: the-wind-that-shakes-the-barley? You almost want to laugh with someone, or try not to get turned on. Because you think you might be human; may have your needs; and needs don’t usually have a volume. Only you hear them – and those who you decide to share them with.

So when it gets too tough to bear and the floor starts shaking like it’s the last battle of Sex Wars III or IV – how many episodes are there? – and they’re about to drop their next pleasure bomb over your head (in case you survived the previous four or five), you put on headphones, quick, watch anything, turn up Vivaldi. Classical sex is always calmer. You wonder why it’s so uncomfortable to be an uninvited guest at such life-giving parties. Isn’t it natural? Divine? Superb? Invigorating?

How can it be such a great movie when you’re in it and so intoxicating when forced to watch (or listen to)? Is it OK to be invaded by a foreign country, even when that country’s name is Love?

It could also be that the one invading you is not the country itself but only her naughty general, Mr. Sex, making a passionate move on you; trying to set you free from your silent, intellectual tyrants. Although, more than loved, your ears get molested.

© Elliot Erwitt, Marilyn Monroe, 1956. In Elliott Erwitt: Personal Best at ICP.

As a sensible creature, how can I not blush when she walks up to me the next day and happily introduces herself? I can almost see her naked (believe me, she’s more beautiful than she sounds).  Oh dear, I already know your name. I even know your boyfriend’s “peirnaws” name. And all of his nicknames.  

So what’s a polite girl to do in this situation? If I were in the U.S., I’d probably sue them for premeditated sex-conspiracy. Maybe that way I could make enough cash to rent a different apartment.

But see, I’m in Europe, where people are supposed to be having sex 24/7 while they’re singing opera; and walk nude on the narrow, ancient streets; eat with their hands, talk really fast, have bad teeth, smoke a lot…

All these assumptions being one-hundred-per-cent-true, I have no other option left but to practice hypothetical conversations with my neighbor in the bathroom mirror; none of which seem to work for the purpose of an efficient and mature (and not-embarrassing-at-all) two-minute greeting. Umm, where did you buy your washer? It sounds like it’s doing the job. Potent stuff. Technology, huh?

But when the next day comes, I don’t say a thing. They never taught me how to address these issues in any of my Communication courses. Maybe she wouldn’t take offense but only blush in return and from then on, turn down the S-volume.

Until I come up with the latest in sex-talk wit and gather up the courage to knock on her door, I think I’ll stay with Vivaldi; and in my tiniest heart of hearts, hope she runs across this article. Maybe I’ll slide a note beneath her door with the permanent link. It’d be much less intimidating. And if she didn’t quite agree, I hope she’d tell me in the comments. Or better yet, write her own take in which she complains about my ridiculously loud juicer or my shower concerts with made-up lyrics to her favorite tunes.

And yet, when all is (un)said and (un)done, at a post-orgasm hour with everything restored to silence; at that time of the night when my pillow is finally doable, I can’t help but start rambling in my sleep: What if over all these tired rooftops –of cities and old buildings and bodies and strange smells and life– what if, only for one night alone, love shouted louder than sex? What if?

© Elliot Erwitt, Santa Monica, California, 1955. In Elliott Erwitt: Personal Best at ICP.

You don’t usually hear Love on the news; or through the walls; or on the streets; or on commercials. And when you do, it’s so breathtaking that you need to stop and take a picture. But what’s in a shout that didn’t start with a sigh? And what’s in a sigh that wasn’t issued by the heart?

Did we accidentally record only the chorus of the song? If god is love and we are god and love is us and we have sex, then isn’t sex just a part of the story that is us and love and god? When did the separate parts turn louder than the whole?

All things considered, if you don’t have thin walls or neighbors, you could even get an amplifier if you wanted. And if instead of a tune, you’ve got an entire symphony with all its different instruments harmonizing in your bedroom, please know that you’re at least rare and at best whole, if not immensely happy.

Maybe you should teach the rest of us lonely stars –some shy and quiet, others too obnoxious– how to be constellations.


[Photos: 1-ICP; 2-ICP; 4- ICP]

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