He could hear the neighbors through the floor, muffled mumbles interspersed with sounds like they were throwing furniture at each other. A project, he surmised, some home improvement, for the accompanying voices weren’t angry, or yells, just the sound of men cooperating that permeated the hollow barrier that separated him from them.
At first, he stomped on the floor and yelled back that they were disturbing his ever important solitude, destroying the rhythm of his work. But as days passed he found himself locked in the study, the tiny room above where most of their collaboration seemed centered, unable to work without their accompaniment. The absence of the voices, which grew longer in their intervals, increasingly reminded him of the echoes of voices that had once been in his own life, in his own home, until they stilled the pencil and calculator in his hands.
The sounds became more infrequent, more distant until, finally, he lay on the floor, hand cupped against the wood, listening for those spectral voices like a submariner trying to catch the final utterances of trapped cohorts.