Young Love Narrowed Down to One

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The boy next door has fallen in love. We can hear the same girl giggling, talking, and smiling through her words against his lower reverberations. They stand on the tiny balcony in the condo next door and just talk. And talk. I can’t hear their exact words. But I can hear how the words are spoken: adoringly, happily, giddily. Delightedly.

They come home in the evenings and pop the lock on the sliding glass door – to let the air in and each other out. They don’t have chairs outside so they just stand there, bodies slightly curved into each other, elbows on the banister, surveying all that lies ahead of them.

He’s had numerous parties over the years. Lots of girls laughing inside and out. Boys with red plastic cups on the balcony. Tall, athletic kids. They are of a type. Healthy, sweet, respectful. The parties always get quiet at 10:30. There is never any shouting or lewdness. They leave my flowers alone. When we get up in the morning, you’d never know there had been a party next door.

When we first moved in, I assumed an old lady lived there. It was the doormat – all flowers and butterflies over the word “Welcome.” It also used to be completely quiet over there. I thought the old lady was a shut in. I worried that she might have fallen and not been able to get back up. Then I assumed that the condo was a second home for her. Perhaps she spent her winters in Arizona to escape the Seattle drizzle.

Then came the spring and the first party. It was a low-key affair with talking and a little music. Only once did I hear the sound of bass thumping against the wall. Old ladies don’t have parties full of young athletic kids. I mean, unless they do – but this isn’t that kind of neighborhood.

Through the months, lots of girls came and went. Usually in packs. Their voices carried across the balcony, across the air. Always with laughter and lightness.

Until there was just one girl’s voice that carried across the way.

Despite our proximity to each other’s lives, I haven’t really ever gotten a good look at him. Because we are so close and not an inch separates our conjoined balcony, if we are out there, he is not. If he is, we are not. It seems respectful to grant each other this amount of privacy in the big city, where privacy is hard to come by. Consequently, I wouldn’t be able to pick him out from a lineup. Or her.

But judging from their mumbled and indistinct conversations, they are at that tender point when discovery and flesh come alive at the lightest, sweetest touch. Their whole body tuned to each other’s presence. When their hearts skip a beat when they hear the other coming through the door. When they can’t wait to put their hands on each other, to touch him, his warmth — her softness, her skin. When a whole day is taken up by thinking about one another, wondering what he’s doing, what her lunch was, who she talked to, what he’s thinking, is he thinking about you.

Having that next door, in the summer’s hottest days, makes me remember our own first early months of exploration, mystery, discovery and joy. The kinds of stuff that builds foundations and establishes a glow of permanence. I want these happy days of youthful love to stick to my neighbor and his girlfriend long into their lives so they have these moments forever to draw upon, too.

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