noise list

by Lorenzo Sewanan


christine sunu 

yale school of medicine

Kacie chose to avoid the following sounds: cereal in bowl, feet against pavement, person who is dying (loudly), ambulances (also loud), white noise, silence at night, silence during the day.  Drunk people, sober arguments, anyone in histrionics.  She chose instead to orient herself, study for her exams, discuss no-sex-in-the-room rule with roommate, meet new people, keep in touch with Laura, Penny, and Michael, eat healthily, and ignore the noise.

Her mother had called her the other day: “How are you settling in?” “Fine.” “Do you want me to send you anything?” “No, I’m fine.” “Are you really fine Kacie?”  Her mother sounded concerned.  Kacie told her not to be concerned.

Kacie had not spent very much time around dead/dying people, but now, of course, Kacie was looking at another dead person, and she was near-to-certain that he was dead.  How much alcohol did it take to die?  she wondered.  “Wes,” she said.  He moaned quietly.  She hunted down the mirror in her desk and placed it in front of his face, just in case.  It did not fog.  It fogged.  It unfogged.  Wes still looked dead.

“You need to relax,” Wes told her all the time.  He suggested they go out.  This death would be his fault, she thought to herself.  The noises of Saturday night were again rising in the building.  The noise equivalent of water: cold to simmer to boil.  She had sworn to find nicer people, discover new interests, stick to new interests, and contact the people in Greenland (scientists) who had filled the crevices of the glaciers with rubber ducks, which would seep out of the cracks and into the surrounding water.  She wondered about floating capabilities of rubber ducks and rushing cold water.  The mirror fogged.  It unfogged.  The noises rose.  The sounds of drunk people, distant fire alarms, music from next door (techno).  Kacie wondered what she would do if Wes were to die, lying there in her bed.  She had formulated a plan a year ago, just in case, but she was no longer certain she was prepared.  It is possible for one to see a person die, lying there, expiring loudly.  Kacie went to her desk and opened her planner.

Someone drunk and soaked in water and alcohol knocked against her door, stumbled, moved on.  Two girls chased him down the hallway, screaming, “Bobby!  Bobby!  Oh my god!”  Kacie looked at her lists.  She had many to-do things, sticky notes and notes scribbled in margins in black and red pen.  One note was, “Go to therapy???” in red pen.  She had taken a sharpie and blacked it out with thick strokes.  She had gone, but she didn’t want anyone to know.  Dr. Keillor had told her to make more lists.  Make a list of food.  Make a list of people important to you.  Make a list of things you will do.  Summarize your feelings.  Kacie had made enough lists, and she would not go to therapy again.  Kacie ripped out the page in her planner, crumpled it up, and threw it in the garbage can.  That day was over.

Kacie looked at the garbage can and thought about therapy.  She listened to the loud people outside, the sound of the rain on the roof, the sound of distant fire trucks that still made her heart beat into her throat.  She wondered what she would do, if Wes died, if she had found a duck in the rushing water, if she herself were accosted by rushing water.  Plastic, cloth, aluminum, and tire bits were gushing in the street.  She thought of Greenland ducks.  If one was outside, it had traveled far.  The mirror fogged.  People knocked about in the rain.  The glass cleared.

At her desk, Kacie clenched her hands into fists.  She listened to the rain gushing in the street, the flash of cars spewing water into more water, the heavy breathing of the radiator, the tang tang tang of rain on her window, the stomping of feet in the hall, the faint music, the screaming, the laughing, the sobs of someone dashing to the bathroom to cry.  People calling the names of other people.  People calling the name of god.

She climbed into bed next to Wes.  Of course Wes was not really dead.  She pressed her face into his shoulder.  He smelled like cinnamon and alcohol and Old Spice.  When he stirred, but barely, Kacie began to cry.  Of course, of course.  Tears on her cheeks, wet, warm, turning cold.  She made a list in her head: don’t regret therapy, don’t regret not going.  Wes, my mother, my brother.  Noises still very loud, have not yet stopped.  Planning inevitable but unfortunate.  Future plans shall include habituating self to noise; people who are dying, in pain, in love, bored, and over-excited, make noises, if you are nearby this is all you can hear.