Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Different places have different noises. Have you noticed this? I don’t usually pay that much attention to the sounds around me, unless something changes. Last week though, sleeping in our house for the first time, I was acutely aware of the noises.

A car drove by and a door slammed outside. It sounded so close, like it could be our door. I knew it wasn’t our door, that it must be a neighbor’s door, but then I heard footsteps. Again, I was sure that it was a neighbor walking inside their house. We live in a townhouse now with families on either side of us. But I kept imagining intruders downstairs. I felt so vulnerable, upstairs in this empty space, lying on an air mattress. I finally I got up to check. Of course, all our doors were secure. No one was in the house. Of course, it was the neighbor. I went back to bed.

Then I heard the Roomba whirring away on the 1st level. I couldn’t believe the sound carried all the way up to our bedroom on the 3rd level but it did. I couldn’t believe how loud it sounded. We bought the Roomba over a year ago, since the apartment was fully carpeted. As my husband says, it doesn’t do the world’s best job vacuuming, but when it’s easy to run it daily the benefits accumulate. It also does a good job getting under the furniture. We ran it downstairs in the new house that first night, before the movers came with our stuff the next day and trapped dirt under the bookcases forever. I knew it made sense to let it run, but the noise was getting under my skin, so I finally got up again and went downstairs to turn it off.

I went back to bed again, and lay there listening to my husband breathing. He clearly wasn’t having trouble sleeping and I tried not to be resentful. I heard dogs barking off in the distance. More than one, I thought, and probably medium sized. But in the same place, not spread out. I wondered what they were barking at. I heard more cars driving by outside and the sound of muted voices talking. Finally, I drifted off to sleep myself, although I kept waking up. It was a night that makes you glad when morning arrives and you can stop trying to sleep and get up.

It isn’t that our apartment was quiet. We lived on the ground floor, so we had people walking and talking above us, and children yelling on the playground and through the breezeway, and cars driving by all the time. Sometimes we heard too much, when neighbors would get into arguments that filtered all too easily through the walls and down the stairs. It’s just that the noises in the new house are different. It will take some time for them to become familiar, and fade into the background hum that is the music of everyday existence.