A single mother lived upstairs with her seven-year-old son. I was a guest for the week in my friends’ new second-floor apartment in a sunny three-unit house. They hadn’t seen much of their neighbor, they told me, but they’d heard her. Screams, threats, curses, relentless wrath against her child. They laughed about it. She’d had the baby at seventeen; it was a hard life. A lot of times the son screamed back.