The sounds coming out of their room couldn’t be missed from anywhere on the floor of the one hundred year old downtown hotel. None of the words made sense. The woman’s voice---was her name Nadine? ---shrieks for what must be one latest of a dozen times. He types for another hour of morning. He pours word after word, explaining, revealing. He is not sure, if, for her, they are for naught. He has already decided not to send but a few of the words. He suspects he has said all he can say on the matter. It may well be the same even a year on.
He hears the two little girls crying out.
So many times he’d run across Nadine in the kitchen, with no unpleasant moments. She’d said something once about thanking God for all that we have, with some veil over her averted eyes.
Her towering, brawny husband, he knew from less. He’d always nodded his head as they went by, they both had, he’d asked some advice about the Old Hotel a time or two. They may have had a brief laugh passing in the community kitchen.
The yelling cannot be ignored.
It is none of his business. He thinks about the little girls. He decides to wash his bowl in the kitchen and make up his mind from there.
Someone had to do something. Preferably, one of the people living there would end this, or both of them. He’d seen the little girls before---five and seven, maybe---coming in with Nadine from shopping. She was tired and strict. He’d heard them all laughing once, though.
The words he leaves on the monitor writhe earnestly with appeals to reason. Which ones of those words would be singled out for exception? He wants to defuse a violent temper with them. Words only work so well in bad stories; in life they require participation and acceptance or they die on the page. Yet he could not help trying to put them into her head: solace is possible, silence is golden.
He pauses outside the door of 212. A “thwack” soon rewards his vigilance. He washes his bowl. More yelling from everyone. “Thwack” again. Thud of a fist, muted in dense flesh.
So, he knocks.
The door flies open. Breathing hotly, the massive man in workman’s blue leans forward, glares out, while Nadine and the two wide-eyed children stand in the background.
“What do you want?!?”
He stands there in the doorway of 212 with the blue plastic bowl in his fingers. He detaches all excessive emotion, and feeling every pore of his skin, says one weary word.
The man stands there pondering him for five long seconds.
“All right,” he relents. The door is closed. The sounds return to the muteness typical of the old hotel.
Nadine is at the door of 208, knocking not two hours later, seething. “Did he say anything to you? What did he say?”
He shakes his head. “He really hasn’t said anything to me much at all. About anything at all.”
She leaves without another word.
Her husband, the girls’ father, carries some things down the stairwell when he sees his erstwhile neighbor for the last time, two days later.
“I’m going to try to find a way to make things work better. Going to help her move out a while. I’ll see if I can afford to live here by myself. We’ll see. But thank you, man.”
He never sees any of them again.