In a city, nothing is ever really silent. You can lock your doors and seal your windows, stuff your ears with wax and hide your head between your pillows, but there will always be that distant city rumble, the lethargic roar of a thousand miles of traffic and four-and-a-half million citizens going about their business.

No one seems to miss the silence. Maybe no one needs it anymore. Or maybe eight hours of sleep a night is enough.

Somewhere in the city, half a dozen stories above the coffee shops and the cabs, there was an empty apartment. The front door, heavy and bolted shut, opened into the leftmost portion of a dignified apartment living room, with plush-white carpet and a pair of cozy-looking red sofas flanking a glass-topped coffee table. To either couch's left was a plain-white nightstand, both carrying identical beige-shaded lamps. The walls were painted a touch darker than the carpet, and were hidden wherever possible by thin-framed replicas of Monet and Van Gogh and flea market tapestries with a sort of feminine embarrassment. The carpet abruptly gave way to hardwood flooring in the kitchen in the corner farthest from the door, separated from the rest of the room by waist-high counters and the inevitable dirtiness that kitchens seem to attract. Rather ungallantly, four folding chairs and the card table they were tucked under sat six feet from the entrance to the kitchen. There was a door farther down on the wall to the left of the front door, not as heavy and sporting a golden doorknob, and two others just like it against the far wall. The lights were out, heavy fluorescent tubes above the kitchen and four much more regal standing lamps, plus the nightstands' lamps, so the only source of light was an uncomfortable mixture of moonlight and the ambient glow of the city, spilling through the two lace-curtained windows overlooking the kitchen table.

Outside, something bumped against the front door. That something giggled girlishly and murmured. Something else murmured back, its voice deeper but muffled, and the first something giggled again. Something else altogether, rigid and metallic, slipped through the door- a key, and the bolt disappeared into the door. The knob turned, and the first two somethings tumbled into the room, locked at the lips and hands running over each other's bodies. Jackets tumbled to the floor, a lonely looking coat-rack behind the door forgotten, and shoes rolled off feet like peels slipping easily off bananas. Stumbling and breathing hard, the couple navigated the ten feet between the door and the nearest of the two sofas. One of the two misstepped in the dark – there was as little light in the hallway outside the room as in the room itself, and so the open front door didn't help the lighting situation any – and they toppled over the armrest onto the cushions, where the more delicate of the two, clad in what would be a shimmering evening gown if there were any light, squealed with some combination of surprise and delight. The one underneath, heavier and not at all bothered by being landed on, laughed softly and leaned up to kiss the smaller one's neck.

She smiled. "I'm not usually like this," she said, more as a sultry giggle than actual speech.

"Don't worry," he said, pulling his face out of the slender contour of her neck and brushing her lips with his. "Neither am I."

She giggled again and kissed him with a rough sort of incoordination that was almost certainly correlated with the alcohol he could taste on her breath and tongue. She planted her hands on either side of his face and slowly moved her hips against his body. His hands crept to the bottom of her dress and inched up her silk-smooth thighs, and she smiled against his kisses.

And then, abruptly, she pulled away from his face, his chest, his hands, leaving him like the pauper who only moments before had been a prince. He sat up, tried to follow her lips, but she put her hands on his shoulders and held him fast.

"I'm gonna go slip into something a little more comfortable," she said, managing not to giggle until the end. With only minimal difficulty, she stood up and walked around the backside of the couch towards the leftmost of the two doors on the back wall. He sat up, ignored a flash of tunnel vision, and turned left to watch her go. "The bathroom's there." She pointed to the lone door on the wall adjacent to the front without turning back to face him. "You can look in the top right drawer if you…" Now she did turn, just in front of the door, her giggles coming silently and almost doubling her over as she looked back at him. Finally, she said, "If you didn't come prepared." She fell back against the door, smiling, and turned the knob behind her back. With slender, drunken grace, she slipped into her room.

The man, left alone with his thoughts and a hard-on, let his chin fall to his chest as he chuckled to himself. It's not every first date a man gets laid.

He stands with a grunt, wrenches his body around to limber up his back, heads for the bathroom door. No, he most certainly did not come prepared. No indented ring marred the face of his two-fold leather wallet, and no-

His foot caught the leg of the sofa, and after twisting and stumbling with a picture-perfect look of surprise on his face he fell flat on his ass, legs sprawled in a V, pointing back towards the couch. After three seconds of tedious self-inspection, he started laughing at himself. Maybe she wasn't the only one who'd had a little too much wine.

She giggled from her room. The noise was dampened but still surprisingly audible: the off-white walls, apparently, were very thin. "Everything all right?"

He cleared his throat, still laughing, and replied, "Yeah, babe. Just checking your floor." He dropped a fist against the carpet and nodded at the dull thump. "Yup, definitely strong enough for the two of us." Somewhere below him, somebody growled, some irritated tenant giving him his first warning through the floor and promising that next time he'd make sure there was no Next Time.

More giggles. She seemed to be nothing but a big barrel of laughter. A big, shapely, unbelievably sexy barrel of laughter. "You're too cute. Now hurry up…what are you waiting for?"

He stood with a strange rolling motion, blinked back a second instance of tunnel vision. It happened anyway, constricting his view to pinpoints. He grimaced and stumbled.

What are you waiting for?

When his eyes cleared, he was staring at the bathroom door. He shook himself with a brisk, wake-up shiver. From the other room, he could hear his date humming impatiently. He smiled, but his smile had lost some of its energy. It was still pleasant and, more importantly, genuine, but somehow fatigued, as if his face had decided that there had been enough smiling done for one evening. He reached for the knob.

The door opened easily enough. No creaking, nothing the growling man below could complain about. Inside was more darkness, but his eyes were adjusted and he could make out phantom outlines of the countertop and sink, the toilet, the standing shower. He stepped up to the sink – his shadow pantomimed him almost invisibly on the wall – and twisted the plastic knob on the left, the universal Cold Water Tap. At first it did nothing but resist like a tightening spring; then he wisely turned the tap the other way, and water came forth with a whitewashed rush. He dipped his hands clumsily into the sink, wetted his hands for a moment before realizing that, considering the likeliest course of the remainder of the evening, cold hands might not be much of an asset, and drew them from the water. After a few seconds of flailing his hands about in a largely unsuccessful attempt to air-dry them, he reached down for the top-right drawer in the sink's counter. He fumbled, brushed the silver-aluminum handle, grasped it and pulled out the drawer. Inside, he saw precisely nothing, because the bathroom was still almost invisibly dark. He stuck out his right hand in search of a lightswitch. It wasn't hard to find.

Three soft bulbs ignited instantly with a buzz, tossing a thin film of visibility over the room. He squinted against the light, looked down to the countertop. After a few seconds of hesitation, his pupils shrank away like twin black rocks dropping into pale blue wells. He could see into the drawer now, see the blue-boxed Trojan three-pack lying alongside assorted feminine products that were of little or no use to any man. He reached for the box and looked up into himself.

He didn't breathe for a moment. The mirror stared him down, throwing his own face right back at him, a face caught and immortalized with the shocked realization that Smile, You're On Candid Camera. Beads of water from his still-damp hands protruded from its surface like imperfections in the glass. The tap, still gushing water, droned on with its white noise. His hand, hovering inches above the box, shivered with something that didn't have anything to do with wine.

When the woman, having stewed through her annoyance and ending up extremely pissed off, finally stormed into her living room, the water in the bathroom was running, the condoms were untouched, and his jacket and shoes were gone.