Around 2008, 2009, when the economy was just terrible, a lot of us in Las Vegas watched our friends disappear. We didn’t lose them per se, we just stopped seeing them around. Their houses were underwater, or they sold, or foreclosures forced them to less flamboyant cities. It got to where me and my lonesome self, in a suburban tract of thirty houses, had maybe two neighbors in my immediate vicinity. That didn’t stop people from finding uses for the space.
A community of swingers, mostly fresh divorcees and college kids doing part-time sentences in the booming casino industry, would bribe the realtors or plain break in to the house next door to me. And go at it. All night.
I heard animal noises around 2:30 in the morning so I stumbled out of bed for my slippers and walked the cold desert pavement to the house in hopes they might curtail their more ecstatic effronteries to monogamy. When I knocked, I wondered what they’d done to the door, but then I realized I’d fallen asleep with one contact in. I was rubbing my eye and trying to keep my head held high when the house got real quiet. I knocked again, and again, until finally I heard tentative footsteps in the carpet.
“Who’s it?” came through the door.
“Barry,” I said plaintively. It was just Barry. “I live next door.” I proclaimed it as if the assignment was a long and grueling one. I didn’t begrudge their fun, it said, I was simply old and tired and Barry.
A young woman opened the door. She was neither beautiful nor ugly. She was a full bodied girl, a little plump, like the midway doll in a Matryoshka set. She’d covered herself up with a robe and was tying her straw colored hair back from her sweat scrubbed face. “Yes?” she said.
“I was hoping, ma’am, if y’all might keep the noise a little lower. I have work in the morning, you see, and I am a light sleeper.”
She blushed and tried to keep the door to her back without giving me too much of a peek inside. The smell from within the house was hot and swampy, like a bayou of cologne. “I’m sorry,” she said, nearly breathless. “But I appreciate you coming over here. We were afraid you were the cops.”
“No,” I said, nodding. “The street over yonder,” I pointed, “is just about empty. Me and Mrs. Kane are the last ones here. She’s next door. And she might call the cops.”
The girl shivered, from the cold or the implication. “We can move our party there,” she said. She laid a hand on my shoulder and reached under her robe. She produced a card, and pressed it into my hand. “Thanks for not calling the cops.”
She closed the door and I heard the mass inside lifting themselves to the heavy task of cleaning their messes. With my one good eye on the card, I shuffled my way back to my house. It read: NICE TO MEET YOU. JOIN SPLAT!
SPLAT was an acronym, I later found out, for Some People Love Anytime.
It’s a fine world, I suppose, and finer when you can get it to make sense. Failing that, politeness in a time of desperation has never served me wrong.