Edwardian Noises

Crackling latches reverbate down the hall. Doors opening, closing. Footfalls against hardwood aren’t the issue. Any movement you make will be upstaged by creaky hinges, the turn of a doorknob, or the slide of a lock.

In default position (doors closed), there’s no harm. Things remain relatively silent. And even a casual “motherfucker” shouted lovingly to a friend will escape without notice. But when this state is unrustled by a person’s need to move from one room to another, it’s a veritable snap crackle pop. Minus the cushy krispies.

The snap of the bathroom door is the worst. The john’s close to my room. So anytime my roommate or his girlfriend uses it, it’s a bit like an exploding firecracker cross-pollinated with the motions of a Victorian automaton. Or it could be a taut broom whacked against a jamb within millimeters of a microphone, then slowed down and amplified through a deafening home theater system. Or it’s one of those sounds nobody really knows about. A bag of popcorn crackling inside a microwave oven.

One thing is certain: It scares the bejesus out of me.

I tolerate this sound, even when it jars me from a book or something I’m revising. There’s an extant idea that somehow I can adjust to it. Get accustomed to its timbre. That hasn’t happened. I’ve been at this place for seven months and sometimes when I hear it, I jolt up half-awake from my futon ready to brawl bare-chested and bleary-eyed.

Certain sounds provoke me, some terrify me. And I know I’m not alone. My sister, for one, is frightened by the sound of broken glass. When I was a cruel teenager, I exploited this fear by blasting a recorded sound effect, howling and pretending that I had been injured by fallen shards, and then earning (rightfully) my sister’s silence for two weeks. This prank’s callousness can be further framed by the fact that, when I was nine, I collided into a sliding glass door. The idea was to jump into my grandmother’s backyard swimming pool. I thought the door was open. I bled upon the carpet, great gushing red rivulets streaming from my clavicle, howling in shock and feeling the pain later as the doctors stitched up my right shoulder in much the same way my grandmother mended loose buttons. A mere six years later, perhaps influenced by Andy Kaufman, I had no problems anesthetizing myself against this memory and exploiting the pain, the sling I donned for three months, the trauma and solicitude of my extended family, and of course my sister’s concerns. I paid a dear price.

And that’s why I tolerate these unexpected interruptions. It’s penance in a way. More than the faded scar on my shoulder. But it also keeps life around here exciting.

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