Growing up I lived in an apartment building that had paper thin walls that made for a lack of privacy. The neighbors next to us used to argue into the late hours of the night. My mom would complain about them keeping her up at night, but I know very well that she is “una chismosa” and probably slightly enjoyed the entertainment. Personally, the lack of soundproof walls is what made living in those apartments so entertaining for me.

Every day I would come home from school to an empty apartment. Both my mom and my step dad worked two jobs to make ends meet so I spent a lot of time by myself. I never complained. I was an only child and being alone was how I preferred it. Besides. having any company would interrupt my favorite part of the day. You see, in the apartment directly beneath ours lived an Ecuadorian family, and everyday their oldest daughter would practice on her piano. I used to lie on the couch and just enjoy the variety of songs. She practiced some classical songs like Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and “Fur Elise”, but more often she would cover more recent songs like “Numb” by Linkin Park and my personal favorite “All of the Lights” by Kanye West.

This was almost a daily routine, and it made me feel like I wasn’t home alone all the time. Our walls were so thin that I could hear her playing from any room in the apartment, but if you laid on the couch you could feel the sound vibrate through the walls. I imagined that she must have been playing directly beneath me. She was incredibly talented for her young age, but I never got to tell her that.

I remember we were having dinner one day when my mom told me that the Ecuadorian family was in a huge ordeal. Some type of hiccup with their legal status and that they were not sure of what was going to happen to them. My mom said that there was a chance that they could be deported. I was not fully aware of what that meant at the time. To me it just meant that you were being sent home, and I always thought that it only happened to those that did terrible things. I could not wrap my head around what this family could have possibly done to warrant being deported.

I came home one afternoon and I sat on the couch and, like clockwork, I kicked my feet up and closed my eyes. It shouldn’t be long before piano practice started. Fifteen minutes had passed and I sat up. There was no music; actually, not a sound. I put my ear to the floor and all I could hear was silence. I’ve never experienced such a piercing silence. It was the sound of a family being torn apart, taken from their home, and being exiled as criminals. Every day after that I prayed that the music would come back. I wanted to be wrong, but the silence only continued to grow. It became far more intolerable than the late-night fights from the other neighbors. Eventually, my family moved from that apartment building into our current home. I still think about that family whenever I hear Kanye West. I wonder, what happened to them, are they okay? Does she still play piano? I guess I’ll never know.


Carlos Vela Castillo is a young Latino artist who is majoring in Fine Arts at SVA.