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Philippe Stessel

When you live in a multiple dwelling and the walls are thin you learn to ignore many things. Like the couple downstairs who fight in the bathroom. His carping and her crying that stream up the heat riser and spread out along the wall like carpenter ants. Or the woman upstairs who paces the hardwood floor in heels at four in the morning.

And so, by some unspoken understanding he and his neighbor, a woman, confined their relationship to an exchange of pleasantries whenever they encountered each other in the hallway. Despite the fact their bedrooms shared a common wall and there were, quite literally, no secrets between them.

He'd long ago overcome any embarrassment connected with entertaining bedfellows and assumed she had done the same. Liquor helped.


For a long time now she had been having an affair with an older man who would only see her certain times during the week and never spent the night. But she loved him.

Now and then the older man would talk about leaving his wife and she would talk about having a child. So it was a surprise but not a shock when one night she told him she was pregnant. They argued. Then her lover left, letting the door close hard.


One night he awoke startled by a pale blue light on the floor. It shone in through the top of the window. He climbed out of bed, got down on the floor and looked up. There he saw, exquisitely poised between two brick buildings, a full moon, clear and silver and immaculately private.

He climbed back into bed and it occurred to him that for a long time he had heard nothing from his neighbor, as if no one were living there. But now he strained at a faint sound through the wall. It seemed like a cough at first but then he realized it was quiet sobbing.

He longed to run there, take his neighbor lightly by the shoulders, set her gently down and show her this moon. But when he looked down to where the light had been, it had already moved on.

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