There’s a weird, whining sound on 14th street right now! Or at least around 2nd and 1st Avenues. Something wintry. This cold metallic hum that’s filling the air without really filling it. Sort of like an airport sound? A touch-down late at night and there are the guys in ear guards with those glow-sticks pointing you toward the gate kind of sound? There’s a lonely efficiency to it, I guess.
Whatever it is, it’s here. And I first noticed it when I ducked out of a bar for a cigarette, leaving inside two great people I’d once thought just good. It’s just this noise! I don’t know. It’s high and persistent, like a reminder of something.
A few weeks ago, a friend brought up Six Degrees of Separation, specifically that terrific final Stockard Channing monologue (stage or screen, mind you) asking how one keeps an experience, how you rescue it from becoming simply an anecdote, something rote and rehearsed. It’s a powerful question — the one that takes Guare’s play from good to great — and I feel that question, all the time. I don’t usually associate it with Six Degrees, but I do wonder about the idea a lot.
If the strange humming noise is a Thing, a signifier of an important moment. Or if it’s simply a noise. Maybe it’s just that Con Ed place, the Sonic the Hedgehog 2-looking thing at the end of 14th street, making some post-storm racket. But maybe it’s something else, something special trying to tell me something! Saying, “Hold on to this.” Using it as a bookmark. A placeholder.
I think I look for poems too often. Like sad grownup Highlights magazine. Find the seven life-defining details in this picture of a car and a building! Decipher five post-therapy meanings from the way the guy across from you on Broadway answered his phone! I know it’s silly, but I still feel that gnawing insistence. That urge that says, “Remember this.” Remember the night of the strange noise. The day of the snow. The afternoon when, despite our obligations and my fear of bugs, we lied down in the grass in Prospect Park and watched kites for hours. Was it one of those times tonight? A time I’ll remember for all its strange sounds and familiar light? Or was it just, y’know, a noise?
Back home in Boston, there used to be this frequent-ish sound that you could hear from our front porch, coming from the hills of the golf course a few streets away. A sound like wind blowing through tubes. For years I imagined that it was a sign of something really dramatic, that it was the sound of something not too far away breaking, and one day there’d be a large crash. I wondered about it quietly for years, without ever mentioning it to anyone, content in the mystery, I guess. Until I finally, for some reason one day not too long ago, asked my mom what she thought it was. And she said, “Oh it’s just the wind through the TV tower there, that one, see?” And that was it. Oh well. And then I knew. There was no magic. But, hey, I still remember it, anyway.