Dear Sir and/or Madam,

Hello. You do not know me and I do not know you. While we have been living in each other’s relative proximity for the past two months, separated by a mere few feet of wood and plaster, we have yet to exchange a single word. What I know about you amounts to one maybe-encounter on the stairwell (none of us wearing masks, we all turned our faces away—embarrassed or considerate, who can say—while we sidled by each other) and your doormat, which is generic and so far askew as to be welcoming visitors to the wall between your door and your neighbor’s.

This being covid time, I do not feel it necessary for us to engage in neighborly platitudes and would likewise feel it unnecessary in not-covid time—the soulless corporate apartment complex we share fosters less a sense of community than one of communal isolation. However, I am compelled to write to you (in a format accessible to everyone except, I am sure, your good selves), to inform you of a troubling, semi-regular situation of which you are unaware: I can hear you having sex.

Now, I don’t write this to begrudge you your nighttime enjoyments; I am neither a prude nor a pervert, and I have seen enough sitcoms to know that I am not the only one to have experienced this awkward result of thin walls and the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy. In my real life, however, this is a new experience. All neighbors in previous apartment buildings were graduate students, most of whom being in a sort of conditional monogamy with their semi-abusive partner, academia, had much less time and energy for things that go bump in the night.

I cannot complain that the noise is disruptive of my sleep. The zenith of your congress, while certainly audible, is generally brief and, one might note, solitary. I hope that your partner is simply less vocal and not less entertained.

You may then wonder why I feel the need to address you regarding this matter at all; if I am not disturbed on moral grounds (your sex life is your business) or nuisance ones (your coitus is less disruptive than your EDM), what is the issue? Can’t we, you may say, all be adults about our thin walls and hierarchical needs? This is the price of apartment living—I wrinkle my nose when your marijuana blows particularly dank, you catch dead leaves from my parched impatiens on your deck, and the ledger of minor household sins balances itself eventually.

The problem is the disparity of information. We have made a secret, one-sided contract, one in which I have become the unwilling, unwanted, and unseeing third member of your intimacy, an accidental auditory voyeur who, by virtue of mere geography, is privy to the rhythms of your lovemaking, who knows the sounds you make at your most vulnerable. It does not bother me to know that and when you are having sex (I could not care less); it bothers me to know that you do not know that I know that and when you are having sex, the unfairness of your not realizing my involuntary and unwanting participation in your private moments.

There is no recourse for the situation in which we now find ourselves, for you do not know about it and I am certainly not going to tell you. In lieu of a solution, please accept my apologies and promise to turn up my music from 10:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday, and some Tuesday nights.

May your conjugal (or otherwise) engagements be mutually fulfilling,

Your Neighbor in Apt. 3B


  1. Katie Van Zanen

    Annaka, this was (as always) humorous, delightful, and well-reasoned. I am reminded of a bit from Friends, I think? about “they don’t know that I know that they know I know.” But I hope for your sake that this situation never gets quite that far.

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      Oh my. This had me laughing out loud…I was humored and horrified at the same time. Lol Now I know too…Thursdays, Saturdays and some Tuesdays. I don’t know how I feel…I might just have to turn up my music as well.

  2. Avatar

    This had me chuckling every few sentences. So relatable and…delightful? That can’t be the right word. I hope my chuckling was more shared experience and less schadenfreude.

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    More people need to use the word zenith! Both in the context of sex and otherwise. Thank you for letting us in on the secret!

  4. Kyric Koning

    Ah, the joys of having neighbors. This was as good a response as any. I still have no idea how to respond to it. Don’t know if I want to either…


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