There’s a guy that lives next door. We hear him through the walls. No, that’s not quite right. We hear him on the walls. He taps. Tap tap tap. Just like that. Well, no that would be like the sound of someone in a prison cell tapping to find companionship. He’s not looking for companionship. We think he’s checking for cracks. Making sure the walls are sound. Making sure we stay the hell out.
The postman talked about him one day when he was delivering a parcel. Asked why we never got around to moving away from Mr Crazy there. That’s what he called him – Mr Crazy. I said I didn’t really have any trouble with him. And that’s when he told me about the newspaper. He delivered a parcel there, and while the man next door was signing for it the postman looked down the hall and realised why it looked narrower than all the other houses in our street – the walls were plastered with newspapers, unevenly bulging and undulating all down the hall. Perhaps that’s what he’s doing when he’s tapping – checking the soundness of his nest. Wasps build nests out of paper too. They’re quite beautiful, some of them. Even if they are just a bomb that’s waiting to go off.
I’ve noticed lately that when I’m practising my piano in the afternoon there’s less tapping. I hear him tap along the walls until he gets to the spot right beside my piano, and then it goes quiet. Sometimes If I have a break in the music there’ll be one tap, like he’s asking for more. I usually do it. I’ve never seen his face, but I imagine that in those moments he closes his eyes, and his clenched fist falls to his side and the fingers open softly like a flower.