The quiet in this house

Monday, February 26, 2007

When people came to look at my old apartment they would ask about the noise: Did it bother me? And I could genuinely say that, it did not. This was true even though traffic on the West Side Highway rumbled by only yards from my window; even though a cross-town bus growled past regularly (though never when you wanted it to); and even though there were gaggles of gay teenage boys making a rucous throughout the night. In fact, when I had moved into the apartment I was relieved by the quiet there.

Noise is a relative experience. When I last moved, I was relocating from the corner of 125th Street and Broadway to the Far West Vilalge. I lived on the second floor with my bedroom windows directly above a 24-hour drive-thru McDonald’s (and yes, it often smelled like french fries). The 1 train emerges from underground and travels above ground on a trestle less than a block from my former window. 125th Street itself is a full orchestra of noise: traffic, people and the three other fast food chains at that very intersection all converging to a constant roar. And yet I slept easily after the first few nights (even with my windows open), and eventually I didn’t even hear the train as it rattled by. Tenth Street and Weehawken Street seemed like a tranquil haven when I arrived. However, my parents who live in the hush of suburbia were acutely aware of the dim from outside my West Village windows. When my mother stayed the night once, I think she barely slept at all.

So, you see noise really is relative to what you are accustomed to. I find my new home deliciously quiet. It is not as silent as my boyfriend’s 4th floor walk-up that faces a practically mute garden. It is not as still as the room I sleep in when I visit my family. But it is so blissfully quiet compared to what I have grown used to tolerating. Last night the snow was falling and the streetlight illuminated the flakes as they came drifting down. I sat and watched from my window for a moment. It was late, and because of the snow, there were probably far fewer passing cars and pedestrians than usual. I was shocked by the soundlessness. The clack of my radiator and the drip of my leaky faucet were the only disruptions to the stillness. So, I shut the doors to my bathroom and my bedroom, turned down the heat, and lay in my bed, enjoying this nearly silent night in Brooklyn.

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