I hear my neighbour through my walls. They are strange walls in Ireland. First I shared a wall with a single family when we came here. Then, in the apartment it was hard to know with whom and which flat we shared walls. The architecture was confusing.
There were raised voices post midnight and children creating a ruckus on Saturday afternoons. But it was never possible to point out the direction of a noise in a multistorey building.
Now we share walls with two different neighbours, one in either side. Our houses are probably packed like sardines in a tin. I can hear all of them coming and going.
This sort of construction is peculiar to these parts and raises questions of seclusion and openness. I can send out the kids knowing that they are easy to spot. But I can also not hang out my laundry without obsessing about whether my clothes look presentable even in their semi dry state.
The neighbours stay strangers, even though we sometimes stand out the doors sympathising about the travails of raising small kids.
I stay indoors mostly and imagine the lives of my neighbours. Bickering dogs and cats. My kid collects a ginormous number of big sticks and discarded plastic parts. We seem to be the only house where there is a lot of junk collection at the doorstep.
This winter the kids all rallied together to find sheets and boards to slide down when the snow fell. They did this in the summer too, in the mud.
Neighbour. The one whose house is next to yours, the stranger, the partner, the beneficiary, the ally, the supporter, the spouse, the intimate parts, the house that is closer to the coast, the good, the bad, the hypocrite, the changeable, the kind. Lisan Al-Arab (the tongue of the Arabs), an Arabic dictionary .