Every morning, the upstairs neighbour pissed so loudly that he woke me up.  My eyes would pop open, hours before it was time for me to go to work.  I felt as if I could hear every individual drop.  I had no idea how it was possible that some people had such amazing urine streams.

Those were the times when I actually wished I could be alone in the middle of the woods.  Sure, I hated nature, but I hated people even more.

Or at least, I wished I could be back in my family home in the burbs.

But you had to pay the price for your dreams coming true.  Mine had come true in a couple short months.  A liberal President was elected, I got a good job downtown, and I moved in with Julian, a cool guy who lived in the cool part of the city.  I had no right to complain (although no doubt I would).

I mean, our apartments were right next to a strip club—how much cooler could you get?  On warm evenings, we could listen to the strippers talk to each other on their cigarette breaks, and once or twice, a used condom came flying gracefully over the fence.

As I walked alongside the club parking lot, I wrinkled my nose at the stench.  The place positively reeked of coolness.

Not that any of this bothered me very much.  But this was also a hip-hop strip club.  That meant hip-hop customers booming loud music out of their cars late into the night.

Which was why I was so bleary this morning.  The hip-hop kept me up late, and the pissing woke me up early.

In the afternoon at work, I fired off a friendly complaint e-mail to the strip club, letting them know that we were their neighbours from across the way, who very much believed in their right to free expression, but could they please control their customers a bit?

When I got home from work, Julian was in a state of inconsolable despair (this happened to him a lot).

“Some big, bulky security guy came by here today.  He said we’re not welcome at the strip club anymore.  He claimed somebody around here complained.”

“Well, I did.  I can’t sleep at night….”

“You complained about the strip club?”  Julian was aghast.  “Now I’ll never be able to go back there again!  Honey, you have to fix it!”

“How?”

“For the love of God, apologize to the strippers.”

***

A few hours after this conversation, I was standing in the driveway of the old house.  It was as if I had been transported into one of my mysterious dreams.  Around me was a huge expanse of magical suburban sprawl.  It was so green and so quiet.  I loved it.

Mother gave a deep sigh when she opened the door.  “My dear, you can’t keep running back here every time something goes wrong.”

But she still let me in and fed me milk and muffins.

“I have absolutely no idea how to write an apology letter to strippers,”  she said.  “I must confess, I have never been in a situation in which I felt the need to apologize to them.”

“Don’t forget to begin it with Dear Strippers,”  my sister said, and she giggled.

RedGirl and I still had our political differences, but they were overshadowed by her envy of the fact that I was in a relationship.  She wasn’t used to being by herself like this.  The Squircal men now considered themselves to be left-wingers, so they no longer wanted to be seen with her.

“I’m sure there’s some rule of etiquette involved that I don’t know about,”  I said.

Mother pushed another muffin in my direction.  “I’m certainly not helping you with this sort of thing.  You’re going to have to solve this problem yourself.”

***

At the apartment, there was a note from Julian which read “Upstairs Neighbour—Party!”

And so it was that I ended up at the Great Pisser’s weekend shindig.

When he first opened the door, I couldn’t help looking down at his pants, but I didn’t see anything unusual there.

“Hey, I’m glad you could make it,”  he said.  “Julian seems like a pretty chill guy.”

“Yeah, he is—he’s very laid back,”  I lied.

“Well, enjoy the party.  It’s an eighties theme,”  he said, mingling away into the crowd.  “Julian is over by the speakers.”

I could tell it was an eighties theme because The Cure was playing at the highest volume possible.  Julian was in heaven.

I sat down and let the waves of loud wash over me.  I was tired.  I wanted to go and curl up under bedsheets, in a silent room.  Of course, if I went downstairs I would still hear the same noise, even in my own bed.  So I had no choice but to party.

“How’s that apology coming?”  Julian shouted at the top of his lungs over the music.

“I don’t know how to do it!  You’ll have to write it for me!”  I screamed back.

He pointed at his ears and shrugged.  Oh, now he’s gone deaf all of a sudden, I thought.

I shifted away from him and continued nodding to the beat, exhausted.

***

Dear Strippers,

I would like to withdraw any noise pollution complaints made by me in regard to the Plush Gentlemens Club.  They were caused by a temporary nervous breakdown I was suffering from.  While your late night activity levels are occasionally high, the service you provide to our community is so invaluable….

I knew Julian would be better at writing the apology letter.  He was the artistic one, not me.  I was the one who was better at either threatening or using violence.

“So I have good news—I’m allowed to go to the club again,”  he said to me.

I patted him on the shoulder.  It was nice to see him happy.  And there would be no more whining around the house.

But when I fell asleep, I was wandering the broad streets once more, streets lined with ridiculous picket fences and lawns.  I found a lush spot of grass and lay down on it, my body relaxing, dissolving into the green.  Nearby, a sprinkler was going…it was wasting water, I worried…or it wasn’t a sprinkler…it was a peaceful stream, trickling…trickling…

I woke up.  Upstairs, the toilet flushed.

***

I gave Julian some dollar bills and sent him off towards the stage.  “Go play.”

We were at the Plush.  Both of Julian’s favorite dancers were there:  the one who did synchronized twitching with her nipples, and the one who always slapped her platform heels together with a big clang.

“Sorry to hear about your nervous breakdown,”  Leah said.

“Nervous breakdown?  Oh, that was only…”

“One of the dancers told me about it,”  she whispered.  “She said that it was bad, that you had some kind of freak out in public.  You sound like you may be in denial about it.”

My current thing with Leah was sort of a semi-friendship.  She had mellowed out a bit these days, mostly because her political side was in control.  But you never knew when she might switch from mellow back to dogmatic.

“I didn’t freak out.  Which one of them told you this?”

Julian sat down next to us and put his arm around me.  “Let’s go home.”  The strippers had made him horny.

“You could be more supportive of Blue,”  Leah said to him.  “We were just talking about her emotional problems.”

“You’ve got emotional problems?”  Julian looked fearful.

“Coward,”  Leah sniffed.

“Hey, we’re talking about a woman who used to knock people over with fireballs of energy when she got ticked off.  I don’t want to be anywhere near her emotions,”  he said.

“Enough already!  I’m not having issues!”  I yelled.  “It’s those fucking strippers talking about me behind my back!”

Some of the patrons closest to us craned their necks to see what was going on.

“Great, I’m ruining everything again,”  I grumbled at Julian.

“Nah, you’re not.  I’m still turned on.”  He grabbed my hand.  “We gotta run.  Bye.”

I gave Leah a hug as we left, but the hard gleam was back in her eyes.

I wondered what it was she needed from me….or from everyone.  Then I decided that tonight, I wouldn’t let anxiety pull me down into the deep.

***

Later on, I was lying curled up in my bed.  I was grateful that things had worked out okay with the strip club, and grateful that Julian had reminded me why I was willing to put up with his insufferable ass.

Somewhere above me, a funky rhythm started playing.  “Woooo!  It’s seventies night!”  a voice hooted.

I was not supposed to use my powers anymore.  It wasn’t so much that I wasn’t permitted to do so, no.  The kind of society that we lived in made the need for my powers obsolete.  Everything was good, so there was nothing evil left to fight.

What to do with a force which is obsolete, but is still bubbling underneath your skin and within the core of your body?

The disco drilled into my brain.  Surely, it wouldn’t hurt to do just a little magic.  A little bit of sinfulness would be forgiven.

I breathed in and out, and focused on the ceiling.  After a moment, a grating, screeching sound was heard, and the music stopped.  This was followed by a stream of curses.

I smiled and turned over onto my belly.

It was a tad annoying that the fire alarm went off when the Great Pisser’s speakers began emitting smoke, or that once the fire truck came, we had to spend half our night on the sidewalk in front of our apartment, until the building was declared safe again.  The strippers waved at us over the fence as they were leaving work.

Not even a little magic would go unpunished.  I made a mental note to dance along with the disco from now on.

 

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