There’s a car alarm that’s been going off indiscriminately on my street over the last several days, once at 1 a.m., and three times this morning starting at 7 a.m. It blasts the same sound for about four solid minutes, in which you want to pull your hair out and take a bat to the vehicle’s windshield. And then it stops, and it feels as if the sun’s come out, and it’s good to be alive.
This morning when I went downstairs, I saw a police car parked in the street outside my house. I knew he was there about the car.
“Did you call?” he said.
“No, but I’ve heard it,” I said.
He said the car was registered to an address about 10 miles south. He asked me if I knew anyone who lived in that town.
“No, but I can tell you, almost all of these houses are single family homes, and I know all of the owners, and I haven’t heard of anyone staying with them,” I said. And then in one of those moments in life when you realize you’ve departed from a world you used to inhabit, I pointed to the small multi-family building across the street and said, with a hint of contempt, “That building’s full of apartments. Maybe he’s staying in there.”
It wasn’t that long ago that I lived in an apartment. And I never viewed myself as anything more or less than a renter. I didn’t realize some of those around me who owned property might be looking at my building – and by association, me – as unsavory. But right now, given the volume and frequency with which that car alarm was going off, I looked at that building and all of its inhabitants as undesirable, and I wished they’d just go.
Just yesterday, the beagle who lives in the first floor apartment barked all day long and into the evening. I had to close my front door. Before that, a drug dealer lived there, and police would come every now and again to arrest him. Prior to that, there was a young man who would fix trucks right in front of the building, leaving a mess of car parts and motor oil in the street. He had a big old pick-up truck, himself, and every time he came or went, he’d rev the engine, vroooooooommm, vvvrrooooooommmm, vvvvrrrrroooooooom, just to make sure every part of the car had its proper nutrients.
“Well, we’re trying to get in touch with the owner. There’s not much more I can do,” the officer said. “The alarm isn’t going off right now.”
He pulled off and headed down the street. I walked into my backyard to put my garbage pail back into its little garbage house, and moments later, the car alarm sounded. I threw down the garbage pail lid and ran out into the street. I could see the police car about three blocks up the road, and I began waving madly with my arms, hoping he’d see me in his rear view mirror. I saw him take a right hand turn and head toward the main road, back in my direction, so I headed toward the main road, waving my arms again. He drove right past.
“Damn!” I thought, and started walking back to my house –the car alarm blaring in defiance.
I felt like a bit of a tattle-tale, and I thought if people weren’t sure I was the one who called police initially, they were definitely going to think that was the case now. I’m currently writing a story that involves gangs, and I read an article last night about a man who was shot and left to die in the trunk of a car because he had talked to police. “Snitches get stitches,” is the motto in most gang neighborhoods. I don’t live in one, myself, but I still felt a little dirty talking to police.
Just then, I saw the police car coming up my street. Apparently, the officer had seen me. When I walked up to his car, he was talking on his phone, presumably calling in the crime. Maybe he was calling for back-up. You never know what’s going to happen when you accuse people of being noisy and tell them to quiet down. I stood there for a moment. The officer barely looked at me. Even he had contempt for snitches.
I walked back into my house. A few minutes later, I was walking past our front window when I spotted my neighbor across the street, whose beagle had barked for about six straight hours yesterday. I walked outside to catch him before he left.
“Your dog,” I said.
“What?” he said, innocently.
“Barked. And barked. And barked,” I said. The voice in my head said, “Snitches get stitches.”
I’ve always been sensitive to noise. Sometimes when it rains, one of the gutters on the side of our house drips, and it can keep me up all night. I’ve woken up and run downstairs because I heard someone walking through our backyard when it turns out it was just a squirrel or a possum brushing against my hydrangea. The dog next door has a leash with a couple of tags on it, and every time he runs from one end of the yard to the other, I hear those tags jangle, and it unnerves me. I sometimes have to change seats two and three times when I ride the train because the person seated behind me is speaking too loudly on their cell phone.
“Did you hear that,” I’ll sometimes say to Bruce.
“Hear what?” he’ll say. And I’ll attribute whatever it was I heard to my over-sensitivity to sound.
I walked back into my house and poured myself a bowl of cereal. And I took comfort in the fact that I’d soon have a screaming baby that will drown out the sound of everything else — at least in my own head.