not the sounds of silence

I define my neighborhood by the noises outside my window. By the obnoxious revving of a motorcycle engine and the loud bursts of Spanish from the barber shop next door. The laughter of children out well past their bedtime, their high, sweet voices speaking too fast for me to pick out the words. The Mister Softee truck jingle, which has burrowed into my skull and echoes through my ears even when there is no ice cream man to be seen. My neighbor’s power saw, hewing through wood as he continues to beautify the back garden… only there is nothing beautiful about the high whine, a wailing like a dying cat. The bus, pulling up to its stop just a few feet from my front stoop, its doors opening with a sunken whoosh and muted metallic beeps like a miniature air horn. The trash truck pulling up to the curb, sounding like one enormous grinding gear. Cars whizzing by and footsteps on the sidewalk. The rhythmic thumping of little boys throwing a racquetball against a building’s brick facade. The heavy boom of bass as a low rider slinks by, blaring reggaeton from the speakers.

There is never true quiet in Queens.

Sometimes I want to clap my hands over my ears and drown it all out, scream, “Shut up,” out my window. Only to realize that the absence of the cacophony, also means the absence of life.

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