The woman next door smiled at Cameron, so he listened to her through the wall. YouTube helped him build an amplifier and soon every sound she made was beamed to him through wireless headphones.
He began matching her schedule – rushing to the oven if she lit a hob, or straining in the bathroom when he heard the clack of her toilet lid. Eventually his metabolism synchronised with hers. He’d never felt closer to anyone.
Cameron looked for other ways to blend their lives. He timed her shower and stood in the water for exactly the same number of minutes, even though his bald head required much less shampoo. A thermometer taped to her outside drain allowed him to make a rough calculation of the water temperature she preferred.
At the sound of her television, he flicked his on too, surfing on mute until he found the correct channel. They watched Friends together and he cuddled the sofa cushions whenever she giggled. On bin day he searched her garbage bags, then hurried out to purchase quinoa, almond milk, and specific brands of coffee, toothpaste and mascara.
He listened to one-sided phone calls. A cousin in Brazil was fighting thyroid cancer – a 5cm tumour throbbing in his throat. Her father was in a care home, convinced the nurses were meddling with his meds.
Once, she mentioned a ‘quiet neighbour’. Cameron’s skin tingled.
But then she saw him in the sunflower dress. He’d admired the way the floral print clung to her breasts as she left for work, and it’d taken two days to find the right shop. He’d been much too large for the dress so he’d bought three and sewed his own.
On the day she moved out, he sat silently in his living room, unable to eat, unable to go.