Sybil’s apartment flooded. The woman who lived in the apartment above hers had left the tub running. More accurately, she had purposefully let the tub run over in an attempt to punish her husband, who was cheating on her with their dog-walker. He didn’t care at all. Really, all it did was make it easier for him to move out and into the dog-walker’s apartment as he’d been hoping to do anyway. Sybil knew all of this because she could hear the argument the pair of them had with the landlord, who was just trying to figure out whether or not they had tenant’s insurance. It was definitely the worst for Sybil and her couch. She had to find somewhere else to stay while her landlord sorted out how to fix the damage to her apartment.
She ended up staying at Chris’ place. She had considered staying with either Jemima or Priscilla, Tallulah, and Bernie, but she also thought that that might result in someone’s death. She had stayed over loads of times and that was always fine, but it also involved alcohol a lot of the time and there was always an end date. She felt that spending an indefinite period of time soberly walking Bernie through wardrobe choices sounded hellish and unbearable. Chris, on the other hand, was too apathetic to be annoying. He didn’t care strongly enough about anything for him not to be flexible. Even when she asked, or rather told him that she would be staying with him, all he did was shrug.
Living with Chris went really well for approximately seven hours. And then it went straight to shit in a big way. The guy who lived beneath Chris was apparently a “musician” and that was a term Sybil applied very, very loosely. It was true that he frequently played the guitar and sang for extended periods of time at all hours of the day and night. Conversely, it was also true that his guitar was out of tune and so was his voice. He was not good. He was, in fact, terrible. He was so bad that it was honestly startling. The first time he began to play the guitar, Sybil was speechless. Chris, who was used to his awfulness by that point, having lived with it for quite a while, only nodded his head solemnly. The second time it had happened, Sybil had been enraged. And then it had happened at three in the morning.
Sybil was sleeping on the couch in the living room of Chris’ minuscule one-bedroom apartment. She was about three feet from the TV, four feet from the fridge, and two feet from the bathroom door. Despite being comically small, it was a nice place. It was cozy and clean and unassuming. But the moment the guy downstairs began playing “Wonderwall” at three in the morning on a Thursday, it became hell on earth. At first, she valiantly tried to ignore it. She rolled over, shoved her head under a pillow, and pretended she couldn’t hear it. Then she put in headphones. When she could still hear his warbling voice overtop of the sound of her own music, she buried her head even further into the couch. She basically had her face in the crack between the seat cushion and the arm. Then she began to worry that she would suffocate in the night. Forty minutes later, she gave up and stumbled sleepily into Chris’ bedroom.
“What the holy fuck is that moron doing?” She demanded, standing in the doorway. “It’s like four in the morning.”
“He does this a lot,” Chris replied, rolling over and propping himself up on his elbows so that he could look at her. “I think he’s learning to play the guitar. So far, all he can really manage is ‘Smoke on the Water’, the intro to ‘Daytripper’, and unfortunately ‘Wonderwall’. I am so close to murdering him, but I suppose I shouldn’t. I would not do well in prison. No one would want me in their gang and I have very little upper body strength.”
“No, no, I think you should murder him,” she protested. “I think you’re doing the world a disservice.”
“By letting him live?” Chris raised an eyebrow at her.
“Yes,” she returned bluntly. Chris snorted. He dropped his head back down to his pillow, apparently ready to return to bed. It was marginally quieter in his bedroom. Sybil moved further into the room, kicking the door closed behind her, and crawled into bed next to him.
“Yeah, sure, sleep in my bed,” he said as she burrowed under the covers, pulling the comforter so that it was more on her side. “That’s fine. I don’t mind.”
She just ignored him.
Later in the morning, just thirty minutes before her alarm was set to go off anyway, Sybil was once again awoken by the guy downstairs and his tuneless guitar. She rolled over to check if Chris was also awake. She ended up getting a lot of her hair in his mouth, which didn’t bother her, but startled him. If he hadn’t been awake before, he certainly was now. She ignored his spluttering and vague, half-hearted protests to voice her own complaints.
“That guitar is so out of tune. It sounds like he’s really ineptly killing a goat,” she said as Chris picked her hair out of his mouth. “At this rate, I’m either going to have to tune the guitar for him or use it to bludgeon him to death. Although, there are six strings on a guitar and only one of him. If I use one to strangle him, I’ll still have five left to play myself a jaunty little tune.”
“Jesus, you’ve only been here one night,” Chris muttered, rolling over so his back was facing her. She suspected that was a tactical move to keep her hair out of his mouth.
“Yes,” she agreed.
“At least wait until tomorrow to start seriously drafting murder plans,” he replied. Sybil vowed to sleep with her hair loose that night instead of in its usual ponytail.
She spent the next three nights sharing Chris’ bed, angrily stewing about the fact that she could still hear the guy downstairs and his shitty guitar. She had contemplated spending the night with Priscilla, Tallulah, and Bernie. She had actually gotten as far as staying over well past dinner. But then Bernie had stormed out of her bedroom in a panic, ranting about her hair and braids and whether or not her hair colour went with the purple dress she was going to wear on her date out with Lawrence on the weekend. Her hair was brown. Sybil promptly got up and left.
Every morning, they were woken up yet again by the guy downstairs. Chris always had Sybil’s hair in his mouth. Although, one time she woke up with his elbow nestled between her breasts, so she claimed it was an even trade. Despite the fact that the guy downstairs, Downstairs Bro as Chris called him, practiced nearly constantly, he never seemed to improve. Sybil actually felt that he was getting worse. It was beginning to look more and more like murdering him would be a service to the hearing world. Even if they broke into his apartment and destroyed his guitar, he could always just buy a new one. Besides, his voice was no better than his guitar playing. It was a sound akin to a crow being slaughtered.
“Realistically, how many people do you think would actually miss him if he was murdered?” Sybil asked into the darkness of the bedroom when Downstairs Bro woke them up at midnight on a Sunday.
“You’ve begun to give this a worrying amount of thought,” Chris remarked.
“How can this not bother you?” She demanded. His apathy, which she had previously greatly admired, had begun to grow on her nerves. It wasn’t even her apartment. Sometime in the hopefully near future, she’d be able to leave and go back to her own home, but Chris would have to continue to listen to Downstairs Bro play unrecognizable chords at all hours of the day. She was annoyed by the sheer thought of it. She was annoyed that it would continue to exist in the world, even if she didn’t have to actually experience it. That was how much she hated it. Chris, on the other hand, was perfectly at ease.
“Oh, I hate this more than anything in the entire world,” he replied. “I hate this more than Poison the band and literal poison and listening to weepy Tom sing about dead orphans. I’m just not very good at expressing emotions.”
It was an exceptionally large understatement.
“I might hate this less if he didn’t always, without fail, play ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’,” Sybil admitted after a while.
“Really?” Chris said, shifting in bed to get comfortable again. “Because I would definitely hate it just as much. Fuck John Mayer and his shitty easy-listening pop-rock. ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’ is the anthem of dicks who learn to play the guitar because they’re ‘sensitive’, but really only just to get laid.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think that guy’s getting laid,” Sybil offered.
“It does,” Chris returned bluntly.
The following day, Sybil convinced Chris to walk past Downstairs Bro’s apartment on the way home from work so that they could, at the very least, see exactly who it was who was torturing them. She was hoping that she could convince him to say something to Downstairs Bro when while they were at it, but that was going to involve a fair amount of cajoling so she was taking her time working him up to it. She hadn’t quite worked out a way to gently suggest that he knock on the door and complain about the anguish the noise was causing them both, but specifically her. As it turned out, she needn’t have bothered because the door opened without any help from them as they were very slowly walking past.
The person who opened the door was an elderly woman. Sybil discreetly peered past her into the apartment beyond to find a living room that very much belonged to an elderly woman. There was an area rug, several ornate, overstuffed armchairs, and a crocheted throw blanket that had been delicately tossed over the back of a floral love seat. There were doilies, tea cups, and fragile porcelain knick-knacks. It was most definitely not the home of a tone deaf bro.
“Hello, dears,” the woman greeted them, pulling the door closed behind her and smiling politely. She was wearing a scarf on her head to protect from the wind.
“Hello,” Chris and Sybil returned in unison, both stunned.
“Are you my neighbours?” She asked. She was holding a pink umbrella and some matching reusable shopping bags. She smelled like flowers and pie.
“We live upstairs,” Chris nodded.
“Oh, how lovely! My name is Gladys,” she rearranged the things in her arms to shake their hands. She had a surprisingly firm handshake. She was also incredibly chatty. She told them about how her son had given her a guitar for Christmas because she’d always wanted to learn and, since her husband had died recently, she had more free time on her hands. She was also hard of hearing and apparently suffering from insomnia. She told them all this unprompted. The entire time she was talking, Sybil and Chris stood and stared at her in shock and vague horror. By the time she walked away, finally letting them go home, Sybil was certain she knew more about Gladys than she did about Chris and she’d been sleeping in the same bed as him for over two weeks.
“So,” Chris said slowly after a long, stunned pause. “How are those murder plans coming now?”
Sybil shoved him into the elevator doors.