October 11, 2013

The Sounds of Silence

I'm three years sober from having a TV (never having had one in my LA apartment), and I listen to far less music at home than I used to (reserving my radio playing and singing along for car rides), so I've gotten used to a quiet apartment. When I'm home (which is more this week, now that I'm trying to save money and lose weight), I appreciate the absence of noise.

But big city silence is never really silent, is it?

I hear strange noises in the wall, which the New Yorker in me fears is mice, but my rational self thinks is just my neighbor doing weird shit in their closet.

A cat mews.

A shower runs. Someone's always taking a shower. Sometimes, on weekend mornings and early afternoons, someone vomits while the shower runs. I wonder if they're in the shower, throwing up, or just running the shower to mask the sound. I can still hear it. I can hear both.

They must've had a big night.

I don't have big nights anymore.

Squirrels scuttle through the trees. A gardener runs a hose, trims bushes and mows lawns. Birds chirp, but only in the latest hours of the evening, or the earliest signs of day. Not during the sun-blaring daylight. Not when night falls.

A cat mews again.

My stomach growls.

My phone buzzes.

The keyboard clicks.

A new Facebook notification arrives.

I sigh.

The kitchen faucet is dripping again, and now the bowl beneath it overflows.

I can't get away from the sound of running water.

Despite too few electrical outlets, leaky faucets, a lodged kitchen window, no heating or cooling, and the spooks that wake me up at night, I love my apartment. I love being here. It's so comfortable, it's hard for me to leave it. But once I do, it's hard for me to come back home. I like to fade into oblivion, where it's so loud, I can't hear my own voice, so I don't bother talking. Where no one can hear my flush, or hear me shower, or hear me cry.

When I get used to the sounds on the outside - the overhead music and the clinking of glasses and the chatter and the horns and sirens of the street, the revving engines and the exhausting busses and the passing motorcycles and the sportscars peeling out - I don't want to go home, where it's oh so quiet. Where I can hear every little thing, to such great detail that it drives me to distraction.

But when I stay at home for a little while, with the Diet Pepsi de-fizzing and the refrigerator running, once I start listening, it's hard for me to stop.

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