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Issue 21, Prosa | October 2017

     

Night Sounds

She awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of a man’s voice. The man was singing in her back yard, near her bedroom window. He usually woke her by scraping his fingernails across the screen, but this time he was singing. He had a tenor voice. Was it Schubert he was singing? It sounded German. She lay there, rigid. She could feel the anger rising in him, the bitterness. The last note was high and intense. She held her breath until it ended. Then there was utter silence and she allowed herself to breathe again, slowly at first, quietly, until she was satisfied that his performance was over, that he had left.

When she woke up the next morning, she looked all over the house for the earring she had lost the day before, but she didn’t find it. She had lost many earrings over the years, usually just one of a pair. She always kept their mates, hoping the lost ones would turn up eventually, but they rarely did. She had a small silver jewelry box with nothing init but unmatched earrings of all sizes and shapes. She opened the box and looked at them. She had tried wearing mismatched earrings once or twice, but that only reminded her of her carelessness, so she didn’t do it anymore.

She wondered what the voyeur had been singing about last night. He could’ve been singing “Der Atlas,” she thought. The song had sounded German, but how could it have been? The whole thing was absurd, the idea that this peeping tom knew a thing about Schubert or any other classical composer. No, she thought, he was just imitating somebody he’d seen on TV. He was probably singing gibberish. She worried that he was enraged because she kept her shades and drapes closed against him, tightly, and he couldn’t peer in at her anymore. She wondered how long he’d gotten away with it before she saw the shadow of his head rising so slowly behind the lace-curtained window in the front door.

She walked through the yard to see if she could find any indication that he’d been there last night. She knew she hadn’t imagined his singing, but she liked to have tangible evidence. Sometimes he deliberately left things altered so she would know he’d been by. He would move the outdoor furniture from its place on the patio or arrange twigs and sticks in different shapes on the lawn, anything to make it obvious he’d been there. She didn’t see anything unusual today. Maybe he considered his singing enough of a sign.

She had applied a vinyl film to the window in the front door, and she knew no one could see through it, but every time she looked at that window she remembered his head rising behind the lace curtain. In her mind, his head—or the shadow of his head—was always rising or getting ready to rise. He was always crouching on the porch, under the window, waiting for the perfect time to begin his slow, quiet ascent.

Before dark, she always went from window to window, closing the drapes and shades. The voyeur would be back, of course. She wondered if he would sing outside her window again tonight. The singing marked a new level in their relationship. His behavior was escalating. Her husband—ex-husband now—left one day, and she never saw him again. He must have looked at her that day, she thought, and realized he didn’t love her. She opened the silver jewelry box again and looked at the mates of all the lost earrings. She thought it was a shame to waste them, they were so pretty. Maybe she would try to fashion them into a necklace. She spread them out on the dresser and lined them up, ending with the mate of the one she’d lost yesterday, an onyx drop earring, a black teardrop. She scooped them all up and put them back in the box. The voyeur would be back, but he would neither see nor hear her. She would hear him, though, she thought. She would hear a twig snapping, the boards on the front porch creaking, or his nails scraping across the window screen. She might hear his song again, too, which she had believed to be a German song, bitter and angry, but maybe it was not German, maybe it was a song that didn’t have an actual language. Words weren’t precise enough anyway,she thought. There were no words to describe her anymore, no words that could tell her who she was.

Night Sounds