Tuesday, August 03, 2010


There's a man living in my building. Or maybe not my building but maybe the building that adjoins mine. I hear him at night. He makes a loud noise that sounds like a crying out of some sort. The first time I heard him I listened harder worried that he was hurt. The noise sounded like it could be coming from someone in pain. It's not really a groan. It's a loud release of sound. So the first time I listened harder. I don't want to be one of those people who hears the sound of distress and ignores it.
Years ago I watching TV and slowly became aware that I was hearing someone yelling loudly, seemingly in combat and calling for help. By the time I became fully aware they had stopped. A few days later I was talking to a woman who owned a shop down the street. She had been the one calling out. Someone had come into her shop and stolen something. Her boyfriend chased them and they attacked him, hurt him in some serious way that I don't remember and then she attacked them with a fork. I think it was a fork. I'd been close enough to help. Call the police if nothing else. But I had no view of them. Only the sound. In the city you learn to ignore noise.
So the first time I heard the man I listened to try and hear and understand what he was communicating. It's hard to describe the noise. It could be the sound of someone coming to the end of a yawn. My mom makes a noise at the end of some yawns. It's more a release of sound than a purposeful communication. It might be the sound someone makes when they are drifting off and trying to stay awake. A coming back to awareness with a start kind of sound.
There's an air shaft between the two buildings. More than an air shaft really. It's a smaller space that opens to a larger patio and some apartment have back doors that open onto it. My living room window opens onto it. I hear the clatter of shoes on wooden stairs. I hear conversations and brooms and hoses and windows opening and closing.
I haven't been sleeping well. I start the night in my recliner. I turn off what ever I've been watching on TV, lean back, close my eyes and try to sleep. If I get in bed too soon I toss and turn but in the recliner I stay still. I lay there and listen to the drone of my internal dialog until I drift off. If I'm lucky I sleep a few hours. I wake up because I need to go to the bathroom. I go and get in bed. Sometimes I can't get back to sleep so I return to the recliner. I try to tell myself stories to quiet the drone.
That's why I hear the man. I'm right by the window in the living room. I can't tell what apartment the noise is coming from. I hear the noise a few times every night. Eventually it stops. Or I stop hearing it. I've already noticed that I hear it as a background noise and ignore it. There's an odd awareness of a choice to not pay attention that happens in the city. Or maybe it's just me.
I wish I could sleep.