Do you hear the voices?

When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house. Their "house" was a rent-controlled flat in San Francisco, where they had lived since before I existed. Upstairs, they had a neighbor named Rita, a sweet old lady who gave them sugar cookies every Christmas. 

Rita stayed up late every night, watching TV. Or perhaps she slept with the television going. You could hear it in the flat downstairs, all night. My grandparents were too polite to complain about the late night TV noise, so they contrived to always sleep in a room that was not below Rita's room. My grandparents' bedroom was a beautifully wood paneled room directly off the kitchen- the original dining room. Until I was six or seven, I had a little bed between their two beds. (They never slept together, because Grandpa was a boxer who dreamed about fighting, and he also had a sleep disorder which caused him to act out his dreams.)

When I got to a certain age, I felt it was too babyish to sleep in my little bed between my two grandparents. I wanted to sleep in the big bed in the guest room, in the front of the flat, under Rita's room. 

In my young life, Grandma had three main concerns about my well being, which were related to:

1. The consistency and frequency of my poop.
2. The dangers of my eating too much and getting a tummy ache. 
3. The possibility of my freezing to death in the mostly unheated front bedroom.

Because of the third concern, the first night in my new Big Girl Bed, I found myself under no fewer than six wool blankets. Grandpa kissed me goodnight, and I remember having difficulty moving. Those blankets were just so heavy. It was nice, though, too. A gentle pressure. It was a weight that felt like a continuous hug. 

As I settled in to sleep, I became conscious of the voices. Was it a game show? A news program? Was that an audience, clapping? I couldn't make out the separate voices, just a constant babble. Like a white noise of late night, cheap TV. Once I realized what it was, it didn't bother me. I pictured Rita up there, with her ridiculously red dyed hair, and her too white false teeth. Watching her stories, into the night. Was she wearing her red lipstick? Perhaps she was eating sugar cookies. I fell asleep many nights to the murmer of Rita's TV. 

That's not weird. What is weird is that, many times, on winter nights, when I bury myself in wool, and I feel that sweet weight of warmth, I can still hear Rita's TV. I tell myself it's not there. It can't be there, in the middle of this Midwestern countryside, with no television playing, so far from the City of thirty-five years ago. But there it is, still lulling me to sleep. Those indestinguishable voices. 

It's not there. Not really. 

But. . . I hear them.


  1. Glad to see you back in the story-telling mode. Had dinner with Jono Thursday, we talked about you… are your ears burning?

  2. My ears are no hotter than usual, but I figured you were visiting. I've been listening to that Pasqual Piñon CD. It's not as weird as the others. That makes me sad. We need to hang onto our weird innocence for as long as possible. Thank you, though. Hope I gave you two a good conversation.

  3. Re: Pascal Pinon, they can't be teen-age girls forever.