Tue 15 Mar 2011
I wrote this a few weeks ago … might as well put it up here, I guess!
I wonder if it’s the light summer rain that seems to be carrying sounds farther tonight. It’s 1:45 in the morning and there’s a samba band down at the park a few kilometers away but it sounds like they are playing right outside my bedroom window. I could always close the window, but it’s a warm and pleasant night and the band is good and my wife is already sound asleep. I have not laid down for five minutes before I get up again, pull on my jeans and find a pair of shoes. I go out the back door so not to wake my wife.
It doesn’t feel like the middle of the night. If anything, the neighborhood seems brighter now than it used to be at 5 AM when I would ride my bike into the city for work. The air is warm, misty and full of music. A trumpet solo makes its way up the hill, amplified as it glances off raindrops. I point myself where the trumpet sounds loudest and decide to run, in case the music runs out before 2 AM.
But this city has strange acoustics, and I find myself jogging through an unfamiliar apartment complex. Some teenage girls are wandering in the opposite direction carrying drinks. I see them clearly under the streetlamps and I still hear their voices long before I expect to. They’re speaking English and it surprises me, like hearing a familiar language in a subtitled film.
A small troll of a woman is standing out on her second story balcony talking on the phone in her nightgown. She watches me jog by and I hear her conversation through the rain as clear as day. “It’s just unusually loud,” she’s saying. “It quieted down for a while, but then it started up again.”
There are no cars at all on the streets, but I pass a few groups of twos and threes coming from the direction of the music, smiling and chatting to each other as clear as day.
I’ve been jogging with my cell phone in my left hand since leaving the house, and almost as soon as I arrive, it rings. My wife has woken up to find me missing and wants to know why I didn’t leave a note if I was going out. I say I wasn’t going to be gone long, and that I just wanted to find out where the music was coming from. “It’s coming from the park,” she says, “We can go another night if you want.”
“I know,” I say, “but it just sounded so close.”
In fact, it sounded closer at home than it does when I get there. There’s a big festival going on with carnival rides and colored lights and stage shows and fences and security guards and power generators. All the sound has drowned out the music, and I’m not sure whether the samba band has stopped playing or if I simply can’t hear it any more over the chunking of the whirl and hurl rides. People are slowly scattering and I get the feeling that one way or another the party is rapidly dwindling.
I’m reminded f when I was a kid I remember after one rainy day a vivid rainbow suddenly materialized across the neighborhood, and I dashed desperately to the field it seemed to originate from. Of course as soon as I arrived the illusion shifted and the rainbow was gone. I was old enough to expect to be let down and I the thrill of the chase stayed with me longer than any feelings of disappointment.
This night felt a little bit like that. As I walked home the air felt like the breath of something alive and waiting, but it was harder to hear the sounds from the festival until I crossed the street to our house. The music had changed, but it enveloped me again, somehow closer now than at its own source.