It's most definitely coming from the flat with the light on and the open window. There's nowhere else it could be coming from. Even if the direction wasn't clear enough, you could tell. Everyone can hear it, from those waiting with me at the bus stop to the shopkeepers and curious patrons in the little parade directly below said flat (and those adjoining it).
Last week. I'm visiting home for the weekend to collect some cuddles from my girlfriend, sort out some stuff I forgot to the first time around and say general hellos... but, if I'm being honest, mostly in order to see Spider-Man: Homecoming. We meet, we dine, we see said arachnid-based film, and we stop at the little supermarket to get some incredibly sinful food. Back to the bus stop outside, silence falls, and...
Everyone looks uncertain. But, to be fair, it's almost midnight. People in flats are allowed to have sex, I'm sure. And people having sex are allowed to be loud. It's basically the only time one is. And it's summer, so of course the windows are open. Of course they are.
I glance at her. I'm about to say something, although I'm not sure what yet. She places a finger to her lips to shush me. Like me, I'm assuming, she wants to hear more. The older people around us look uncomfortable; a little grin is unfurling on my own face. I know what this sounds like. And I know what the increase in volume, pitch, and frequency means. I'm even trying to visualise the scene, even if that makes me feel a little too sordid.
Fuck it, I'm on holiday. You go, girl.
At this we shoot a look at each other. A knowing, familiar look. "Was that a spank?" I mouthed at her, still not daring to make a sound, lest I should be heard... or my voice drowns out the next sound.
There's a pause, heavy in the summer night air. A cricket chirps somewhere. I am still.
Okay, now I certainly don't want my bus to come. Unintentional or not, I have become an auditory observer. If there's going to be a grand finale, I want to be there for it. wrong as that may seem. It's not me who left the window open, after all.
There follows about a minute of gleefully uncomfortable silence. The shoppers opposite us are still going about their business; the guy smoking directly below The Flat Of Sex takes a drag on his cigarette and exhales. I'm listening intently, grasping my girlfriend's hand. I take a glance at the little LED display that tells me our bus is one minute away. For a moment, I think it has all finished, without me realising.
And a most curious sound rings out from the open window. A heavy, soft swoosh followed by a firm, wet thud.
Leather flogger? No. Riding crop? No, that's not the right sound. Palm of a hand? No - I've just heard that and it makes a different noise. Cat-o'-nine-tails? I'm not sure I even know what that one sounds like.
Immediately before I can offer this assumption, our bus pulls up. I get on - running the gauntlet between anxiety and amusement. With the tiniest dash of admiration, of course. Unsteadily I weave my way to the back of the bus, and flop down onto one of the worn seats. I'm giggling like James from Team Rocket.
"Rubber paddle?" I finally venture.
"I was more thar a little tempted to applaud," I wheeze, and then settle back, trying to bring myself back from the brink of rêverie.
"You applaud and you're not allowed to write about this."
Which is a joke, of course. We all know I'm going to write about this.