Night Noise

The passing of nocturnal coeds and 3am fight-songs were white noise compared to my room’s cacophony

In 7th grade, I was diagnosed with a case of Orthostatic Hypo-function. Those fancy words define a disappointingly mundane condition, whereby a drop of blood pressure causes my legs to fall asleep. This drop serves to do little more than incite some pains and fill a line on my medical charts-- which would otherwise be rather empty, thanks to my boast-worthy knack for avoiding danger and taking Advil. The admittedly manageable yet indisputably unpronounceable condition strikes, I’ve found, on those nights when all I want is sleep. As persistent pains circulate my legs, my cozy bed becomes a battleground for Body v. Brain. My condition rears its polysyllabic head and my own head, monosyllabic though it is, emerges abuzz with activity. I consider it one of Mother Nature’s practical jokes, a jab from the universe, when I find myself with sleeping legs that somehow render me sleepless. Just as one human faculty slows, it appears that the others, in some cruelly ironic jest, become decidedly alert. My mind sails through a flood of thoughts as my legs stay anchored in reality, content in their own hypo-functioning smugness. Though I kick and stretch to shock life into my complacent limbs, I do little more than awaken my brain and rustle my sheets.
Despite my woes, I do, admittedly, find comfort in the silence of my house, in the emptiest hours of the night, when I can only hear the faint spinning of ceiling fans. The quiet here is a welcome companion, one whom I’ve learned never to underestimate.
0nly months ago I was awake in a stuffy dorm room, teeming with intrusive sound. The passing of nocturnal coeds and 3am fight-songs were white noise compared to my room’s cacophony. A persistent high-pitched tapping accompanied the hum of our ancient radiator, which had long since become commonplace in the symphonic range of our appliances. Promptly dubbed the "‘Afraid-iator", the time-worn percussion beneath the window was, as my roommate and I came to decide, was operated by a tiny man armed with an ice pick and atypical meter. Frightening and frustrating, the Afraid-iator quickly became a third roommate and the backbone of the room’s midnight jam sessions. In accompaniment, our school-issued refrigerator buzzed and growled with vigor. Though it often failed to cool our humus or preserve our milk, the machine was unfailing in his predawn hissing. Not to be outdone by the Afraid-iator, the box was known for his reptilian -like ability to wiggle as it growled, often moving several inches throughout the night. For this, we called him the Refrige-Gator, regarding him as the most hostile yet multi-talented member of the troupe. The Gator would buzz along to the beat of the ice pick tapping, keeping a subtle melody with the rhythm of the bass. Finally, there was the ceiling light. No clever nickname was given to this contestable racket above our heads. Presumably rejected by most other buildings on campus, our ancient room was deigned the place for such a misfit. Rounding out the veritable hat-trick of identity-seeking appliances, the fixture only produced one sound— a loud rattling—which echoed above its companions’ hums throughout one haunting night. During this, its first and only performance, the light rattled sharply, stirring my roommate and me from our beds and beckoning me to the top of my desk. Straining on tip-toe at the peak of a make-shift ladder of text books, I proclaimed to my roommate at my feet “I can’t see what is causing the noise! It is possessed. That has to be it!”
“What?!,” She shouted back, staring up at the bulbs as though anticipating a fatal crash of metal and sparks.
“We need to jam something between the frame and the ceiling!,” I hollered, struggling to balance. “Hand me something! Fast!”
Reaching to settle the light, I threw down a hand in the darkness for my roommate’s assistance, expecting her to present me with an object that could muffle the thunderous shake of the fixture. In the blackness of our dorm room— we had not attempted to turn on the light, for fear of upsetting the already awakening beast — I felt a cold, smooth sphere meet my palm. I pulled the object to my level and looked closer; a single, apple-sized gourd was resting in my fingers. Of all the objects in my room, my roommate, in her frantic yet sleepy state, had hastily grabbed our miniature pumpkin, choosing it as the perfect muffle for the concerto overhead. Pausing for a moment to consider the absurdity of the situation— my climb to the desk, our frantic cries of fear over a trembling light, the rumble of an otherwise silent appliance, the gourd in my hand— I struck the baby pumpkin between the frame and the ceiling. A second passed. Silence. Victory.
Inevitably, the light’s first anthem became its own funerary dirge. With the interference of the autumnal piece came the winter of the light’s musical career, as it ceased to rattle under the pressure of our centerpiece-turned-savior. Climbing back to solid ground, I exchanged a pleased glance with my roommate (or at least I imagine that I did, given the still darkness of our room) and tried to recapture the warm spot between my sheets. I reveled in the quiet of the space, satisfied with my heroic triumph over the bellowing bulbs above.
Now, months beyond that memorable night, I think back to the noise of my dusty dorm room and thank my bedroom for its hush. Though my legs may anchor me in reality when my mind aims to drift in dreams, I stay between sheets and apart from mountain of textbooks. My noisy dorm is only a memory, one whose echo in my mind reminds me to appreciate the silence of sleep and the quiet complacency of my drowsy limbs.


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