Yes, I used to. No, I don’t anymore.
Never watch your neighbors do the dirty, lay the pipes, make whoopee, bump uglies, bun the hotdog, D-&-P, or just fuck. It’ll reflect badly on your sense of privacy and basic civilized discretion, it’ll make you have depressing thoughts about your own sex life, and there’s a 9.5-in-10 chance that you’ll get caught.
About a month ago, my Lower East Side apartment building got some new tenants: an older, semi-grumpy looking white guy (late twenties/early thirties), and his much-younger, exotic-looking girlfriend. The girlfriend caught my attention because she was one of those sex-oozers: zero-inch waist, C-cup chest, and a butt that looked like it was about to pop. She was like a dictionary illustration of the word juicy. She also impressed me by coming into the building with McDonald’s several nights a week, a personality-revealing habit with which I’m more than down.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Ms. Juice and her boyfriend occupied the apartment directly across the inner air-shaft from mine. My living room window was aligned so directly with a view into her bedroom, and her bed was so precisely framed within her bedroom window, that it was hard not to believe I was tuning into a televised 24-hour live feed. Conveniently, my actual TV was positioned just below the window, so whenever I was in the living room—doing homework, watching The Daily Show, having late dinner, totally minding my own business!—all it took were very subtle up-and-down eye movements to switch channels: Ms. Juice and her beau, Jon Stewart, Ms. Juice and her beau, Jon Stewart.
I should say that I felt immediately creepy and guilty, in those first few days, for even watching them unpack their moving boxes and hang pictures on their wall. Watching my neighbors with acute interest reined in a whole slew of ugly adjectives with which to describe myself: creepy, stalkerish, uninhibited, lonely, eager, desperate, bored, boring. If I was always watching my neighbors across the air shaft, and they never watching me, didn’t this mean I, at least to some extent, sucked? If my life was filled with vibrancy and excitement, I wouldn’t even think to watch whatever the fuck my neighbors were up to! Who has time for that sort of thing? Only creeps and losers! Psh.
Then they started to bang. Really hard, all the time, several times in a row, consecutively. I noticed it one night while watching Family Guy. I was getting bored of that really weird episode where Brian and Stewie are trapped in a bank vault, when, in my upper peripheral visual field, I saw some serious gyration. I won’t go into details, because the sheer fact of my telling this story is creepy enough, but their banging was truly heroic. Whoever came up with euphemisms like “pounding,” “plowing,” and “drilling” must have watched this couple have sex. They should teach a seminar for aspiring porn actors. I’ve never seen Reverse Cowgirl done so brilliantly.
As I was getting ready for bed a little later, my curtains-abhorring neighbors were at it again. Their shut window did a surprisingly good job of muting everything, but I can only imagine that their pure animal rage must have been set to a score of shuttle-launch shrieking.
How sexless and bleh I felt when I crawled into bed and sidled up alongside my 500-thread-count down pillow! I vowed to never watch them have sex again: it was too weird, too improper, the images were too permanently branded into my brain. I found it unfortunate that they happened to be a good-looking pair. Why couldn’t they have been one of the many old couples that had been living in rent-controlled apartments in my buildings for years? That sight would have been much easier to avoid at all costs.
Because, as it happened, watching my neighbors have sex became kind of a thing I did. Of course, in all fairness, they were doing it on the reg and never closing their curtains. Imagine being into weed, and having the weed come to your door and handing itself over to you, for free, nightly. Not an easy thing to pass up.
I feel like this is great opportunity to mention that I have two roommates, both of whom have more interesting lives than me, and neither of whom are the type of people to sit on the couch and do homework while watching the new neighbors have sex. The show seemed always to be on when they weren’t home, but one night one of them came home right in the heat of it. I looked down and pretended to be wholly focused on my reading, but as we have no curtain, the sight was pretty unavoidable (aka, not my fault!).
My roommate: “Holy fuck! Those people are having sex! Look.”
Me: “What?! Oh my God! Oh my God! They’re fucking like rabbits!”
My roommate: “Haha, damn. They need to get curtains.”
Me: “They most certainly do!”
My roommate: “I sort of feel weird watching.”
Me: “As do I!”
My roommate: “We shouldn’t watch.”
Me: “We most certainly should not!”
My roommate: “Have you seen this happen before?”
Me: “Literally never.”
My roommate: “Well, damn.”
Me: [smiles wordlessly]
My roommate: “OK, let’s stop watching.”
Me: “I mean, duh. Creep! Haha!”
We retreated to our bedrooms. I waited five minutes, and then went back out into the living room, with the PERFECTLY INNOCENT intention of, I don’t know, getting a glass of water, and yes, I stood there and watched a little bit more. At which point my roommate barged out, probably to actually get a glass of water.
My roommate: “Dude, you are fucking creepy. Stop watching them have sex.”
Me: “I was seeing if it was raining.”
My roommate: “No, dude. Not cool.”
Me: “But it’s not. Sunny still. Don’t you love when it’s sunny?”
My roommate: “Dude.”
This getting caught with my pants-down (a metaphor that probably doesn’t work very well here) by my roommate was bad and shameful, so I vowed very seriously to never watch them again. I’d already been feeling like a freak, so this was the stimulus I need: the very necessary swift kick in the ass.
They still had sex all the time in plain sight, but whenever they were at it, I would politely do my homework in my bedroom instead. The longest I would ever peek would be the two seconds it took to discern that they were, as opposed to were not, grinding their mattress down to bare shreds.
But that two-second discernment was apparently an expansive enough window for Ms. Juice to deduce, about a week later, that I was totally spying on their Discovery-Channel-raw humpfest. She just happened to be looking my way and then—like that—she locked eyes with me. I hid behind the window frame but peeked out to see if she actually noticed. They’d stopped what they were doing, and pulled the sheets around their body mummy-ish-ly like in the movies, and were searching my window for a trace of their “new” stalker.
THE CRUEL IRONY. Like being charged with possession after you quit your weed habit but still have a little shake on the floor of your car! I literally considered writing on my window: “I wasn’t actually watching you! I used to! But I wasn’t when you saw me. I just happened to be glancing very quickly. BTW—you guys could make serious money in the adult film industry, just sayin’.”
But it would have done no good. The next day, highly opaque black curtains covered their bedroom window, and the sexual adventures of Ms. Juice and her boyfriend were forever made a forbidden secret.
Now, before I leave my apartment, I look through my peek-hole to make sure neither of them are coming out of or going into their apartment. Read: I live like Anne Frank.
I avoid them as much as I can, I really do. But the other night, Ms. Juice and I happened to be walking into the building simultaneously. I was coming from class and she, of course, was coming from McDonald’s. I politely held open the door for her, like any gentleman would, but she distinctly refrained from saying Thank You. She did, however, bounce her butt a little more that necessary on her way up the stairs. I tried not to look, in case it was a test (I nearly screamed, “I’m gay anyway!”), but she never looked back once. And I’m hard-pressed not think that this overdramatic butt-bounding was perhaps her own small way of forgiving me.
By Daniel Lefferts