Singing Upstairs

Read at the Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series, Oct, 2017.

All last night the singing went on upstairs and nobody said a word. This surprised me because my mum is the first one to complain to the landlord about anything the other people in the building are doing. He doesn't live here, and my mum thinks that he needs to know every little thing that goes on. Like the nice lady in 3A, right above us, who used to vacuum all the time. The first time she did it after bedtime, Mum was on the phone to Mr. Lincoln right away. The lady moved out soon after.

Then there was the time the newlyweds moved in. I liked them. The lady was real pretty, and the man used to call me "Sport" even though that wasn't my name. They were only here a few days when one night, I heard sounds from above like they were jumping up and down on the bed. I didn't think anything of it, other than that being jealous, because Mum doesn't let me jump on the bed, but she didn't like it. She said something about me being "impressionable" and called Mr. Lincoln. Soon after she called him, I heard the phone ring upstairs and the jumping stopped. We didn't see much of them afterwards. I thought maybe they were avoiding Mum and me, and then they moved out.

So I expected Mum to complain about the singing. It was a man's voice, but while I couldn't understand the words, I liked it. I waited to hear Mum walking in the hall, muttering to herself like she sometimes does, before calling poor Mr. Lincoln to complain, but it didn't happen. I thought I heard her walk past my room once, but then nothing, No muttering, no phone call. I kept listening to the singing, waiting for her to walk back, but she didn't, and I soon found myself falling asleep.

Tá cailín álainn a dtug mé grá di;
'Sí 's deise 's áille ná bláth ná rós.
Gan í ar láimh liom is cloíte 'tá mé -
A chailín álainn, is tú fáth mo bhróin.

Then I had a really weird dream. I dreamed I was flying through space, but I wasn't in a space ship. I had my arms out and was just flying like a bird. And it was not all black around me like the sky looks at night. There were bright clouds of all different colors, and they tickled as I flew through them. Then I realized that I was not flying alone, that there were other people flying with me. Mum was one, and Angie, who lived across the hall from me, was there as well. As was Mr. Barlow, the man who moved in the apartment over us a few days ago. There were other people, too, but just then, I realized that the reason why the clouds tickled so much was because I wasn't wearing any clothes. Then I saw that neither was Mr. Barlow or Mum or Angie, and I started to feel funny when I looked at Angie and she smiled at me.

When I woke up, the singing had stopped, and the sun was peeking around the shade in my room. I went into the kitchen and Mum was making breakfast, pancakes and sausage, which we never had in the middle of the week. She was in such a good mood that I didn't want to ruin it by asking if she heard the singing. I just enjoyed my breakfast and got ready for school.

I walked to school with Angie, like I had every day since first grade, but today was different. I don't know what it was, but Angie seemed a little taller. Or maybe her hair was a little more shiny.

"Did you hear the singing last night?" I asked while we walked.

She turned to me and smiled, and I had that same funny feeling I remembered from my dream. "What singing?" She asked.

"The singing from upstairs," I said. "I think it was Mr. Barlow. I had a hard time falling asleep."

She shook her head, and her blond hair swung back and forth, catching the sun which made it glow. "I didn't hear anything. And I slept like a baby. I had the most excellent dream."

I wanted to ask her about her dream, but just then we were joined by Gina and Debbie and they started talking about girl stuff. I saw a rock on the sidewalk, so I kicked it ahead of me all the way to school.

That night, the singing started again, just after I went to bed. Again, I waited for Mum to complain, and like last night, I heard her walk by my room, then didn't hear her anymore. I got out of bed, put my slippers on, and opened my bedroom door.

A chailín álainn, a dtug mé grá duit
ó bí ar láimh liom, mo mhíle stór

"Mum?" I called, but there was no response. I looked all through the apartment but she wasn't there. The singing was louder out there. The words were clearer but I still didn't know what they were. Then I noticed the front door was unlocked.

ó abair liomsa, gur tú mo ghrá gheal
Beidh orm áthas, in áit an bhróin

I went out and found that the singing was even louder in the hallway. I closed the door behind me and looked down the stairs but Mum wasn't there. So I went upstairs.

The door to Mr. Barlow's apartment was open a little, so I went to the door and peeked in. I couldn't believe what I saw. Inside was Mr. Barlow, standing in the middle of his front room, wearing a long white sheet over his shoulders. His eyes were closed and he was singing that weird song I heard from downstairs. Around him danced Mrs. Ergon from 1A, Mr. Kruchek from 3B, Mrs. Vyto from 1B, and my Mum. And none of them were wearing any clothes!

Dá dtiocfá liomsa, a chailín álainn
Aríst go brách ní, bheadh orm brón

I started to pull back from the door, but stopped when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I slowly turned and saw Angie standing behind me. She was wearing a thin white nightgown, and that funny feeling was back, even stronger than ever.

"I'm glad you're here," she said softly.

"You...you are?" I stammered.

She smiled and nodded. "Now that I have a partner, I can join everyone else." She put her hand on my chest and lightly pushed, and I stepped backward through the door.

Sheinnfinn ceol duit, mar cheol na cláirsí
Nó ceol binn smóilín, ‘s an drúcht gheal cheo

She closed the door behind her, and I started to get dizzy. I looked around and everyone who was dancing around started kissing and hugging each other. I turned back to Angie, and saw that she had dropped her nightgown and was naked like the rest of them.

I didn't know what to do, but while I couldn't take my eyes off of her, my vision started to get blurry. She stepped real close to me, put her hands on my face, and kissed me on the lips. I closed my eyes and saw what looked like the biggest firework show I ever saw.

Next thing I knew, I woke up in my bed. I didn't hear any singing, and the sun was again peeking around my shade. Mum was in the kitchen, baking blueberry muffins this time, happier then I've ever seen her.

"Good morning, sweetie," she said, practically singing. "Sleep well?"

I realized I had, and told her so, and we sat down to breakfast. She didn't say anything about the previous night, and neither did I.

Neither did Angie as we walked to school, although I thought she walked a little closer to me than usual. And neither did any of the other people in the building when I saw them after I got home from school. No one said anything about the singing upstairs last night, but I can't wait to see what happens tonight!

© Matthew Bieniek, 2017.