Sometimes, late at night, when the neighbourhood is quiet, and even the teenagers with the mopeds have gone to bed, I wake up. It’s the silence that wakes me up, but when I sit up, and listen, I can hear a long, whining sound in the distance.
And I laugh.
Wife and I lived the our first decade together – still doing the “decade” thing, yeah – in the same neighborhood, with our various apartments within a few hundred meters radius from each other. In the beginning, we lived about a kilometer apart, with my apartment up on the hill, and hers down in the, well, downhill.
Back then, we did have my apartment and her apartment, and we lived our lives split between those two, trying to be rational and smart, and not just head-over-heel crazy in love, so every once in a while, I did go back to my place for a night or two.
Technically, hers was a little closer to downtown, and she had also moved in a little later, about when we had met, so we ended up spending a little more time in her apartment, which was just a cross the street from a subway station, and a burger joint, and a bicycle store – all of which can be good to have close by.
Of course, all three can be liabilities as well. The subway station is also a shelter for people who don’t have anywhere else to go, the burger joint a last stop for drunk people on their way home, and we all know what the bicyclists are like.
One day, as we were about to go to dinner, we found a man lying on the grass, next to the front door. Wife, being the Good Samaritan that she is, immediately went to talk with the man – who looked like a homeless person – to see if he was okay.
Or, at least alive.
Wife quickly established that the man was alive, but that he was just out. And not even that, not completely out like a candle. Just in a, let’s call it “dream state” which made it impossible for him to connect with another human being. It was obvious that he wasn’t feeling well, so Wife tried to snap him out of his current mental state and join the rest of us on this side again.
She shook the man, she tried to move him, she tried to open his eyes, and she tried to get him to talk to her. But the man just lay there.
Another couple came walking down the hill, on their way to the subway (or the burger joint, or the bike store), but when they saw Wife trying to get the man to stand up, they stopped to help. But pretty soon, it was decided – and I think I was a part of the decision making process – that we should call an ambulance.
The other couple did that, and Wife got back to the man, still worried, and still trying to get him to respond.
“Do you know where you are?” she said.
He grunted. A sign of life.
“Do you know where you are? How are you feeling?”
Wife shook the man a little.
“What’s your name? What’s your name?”
The man filled his lungs with air.
“UUUUUUUUUULLLLFFFFFFFFFFFF,” he said in a voice that was lower and deeper than Darth Vader’s.
That made him snap out of it. He stumbled back onto his feet, and angrily told us to leave him alone. He walked towards the subway station, only to make a few stops on the way, for no apparent reason, except to growl.
And that “Uuuuuuuuuulllllfffffffff!” is the sound I sometimes hear when I sit on the side of the bed in the middle of the night, and listen to the silence, before I go back to bed, and listen to the little noises Wife makes when she’s asleep.