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Running away from noise

I am becoming a professional in the field of moving flats. No more pillows in refuse bags to be confused with rubbish. This time everything is in tidy boxes. Even our bedside tables.

I suggested hiring a company to carry things for us. My partner and I have bad backs. We were just standing there, offering these guys a glass of water. Telling them what to leave and what to take, where to leave things in the new flat.

We never did this before. It is such a nice job. I felt guilty when they were at sight and pretended to be cleaning. Or moving things from one box to another and vice versa. I was a great manageress. When I saw one of them sweating, I said ‘The Summer is finally here!.’

How many times a year does a person move? Once, twice? As a foreign I landed here without really knowing how safe a given neighbourhood is, or whom will you be sharing it with.

Why did I move so often? Well… I have a problem with noise. I didn’t know about this at first.

My 92-years-old grandmother, who asked the Doctor ‘not to shout’ at her if possible, since her sense of hearing was working well, told me about this in a waiting room. She lived in the countryside, where she heard for a couple of nights some pans banging. Her siblings couldn’t hear anything. She thought she was mad. The next day a man with a car moved by a horse, showed up in town. He was selling casseroles, which were hanging and banging. That day she proved to her siblings that she possessed a super power, and she presented it as such to me. My father also inherited this ‘superpower,’ only to sleep in a noise-isolated room, wearing earplugs when my mom snores. I used to laugh at how startled and alarmed he used to look after hearing a door bang, until now.

‘No more door bangs from our flat mate,’ I say to my partner as we have a meal in our new home.

We live in a noisy world. It can be a bit overwhelming to hear sounds louder than they are. To sooth myself I give myself lists of them as they are happening at a given time. A man in the street, on his phone, saying ‘I will not be going to work until I get paid!.’. A dog barking. A car passing by. The traffic in the avenue two blocks from us. An ambulance. Children shouting in the playground of a school. Two plains. A helicopter. The fridge. You get the idea.

We lived in the wrong neighbourhood many times. One time we had to move because we found in the newspaper that ours was ‘one of the most dangerous in the UK.’ Other times because our neighbours didn’t seem to mind producing or hearing noise. I will give you an example of this. A mother is trying to encourage her child to be quiet. She does this by shouting louder than him.

This is the right place, I think. The Thames close by, where we can watch the patterns the wind makes on the water. The trees and the flowers with a fresh scent in summer nights. No more competing with flatmates at 8 AM, as now we have a toilet en suite. Most importantly, no more disagreements with my partner after dinner, as now we have a dishwasher.

These wonders made us overlook a school nearby. As we hear the children I say:

‘In Winter children will voice their happiness and disappointments in the interior of buildings.’

‘They are quieter here, though ’ he says.

Just when I start picturing myself napping with earplugs, he quickly says:

‘Did you know rubbish collectors come only twice a week?’

‘ That’s good news’ I say. That used to wake me up.

After our meal we start the dishwasher. We smile lovingly at each other.

We go for a walk. We can see the City from here.

‘In here you can listen your own steps as you walk. That’s a good indicator,’ he says.

‘What else can we ask for?’ I say.

Ask me again in a few months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Becoming a Lady

By C. G. Medina

 

I’m 6 years-old. I am a girl, but I am dressed like a boy because my clothes have to be passed to my younger brother afterwards. When I have lice my father decides that he will cut my hair very short. The next day I go to school looking entirely as/like a boy. My classmates laugh. They say I just put my head under a grass cutter. Somehow I have come to terms with it telling myself that short hair is easy to maintain and boy’s clothes are all-terrain.

More than 20 years have passed. I am still wearing comfortable unladylike clothing. I still have the idea that clothing has to be replaced only if it’s broken.

I am the latest addition to a department in which we are all ladies except for one man. They call him by a female nickname, Jasonella. One day they make braids of his pony tale. Another, they paint his nails red. After that they put a tampon soaked in fake Halloween blood in his drawer. If they are looking for some unfashionable person to reform I will be the next. I’m terrified.

I overhear a colleague saying she is feeling depressed and she needs a new handbag. Some of them propose to go shopping after work. I decline saying “I don’t need that” as if they are offering me an addictive and dangerous drug. Some weeks later, when they invite me to the sales, I am about to say yes but that would mean to give up my pride. So I say I’m broke.

I can’t help noticing my 22-year-old colleague Wendy knows how to make basics and all-terrain shoes look feminine. Although I maintain the ‘I don’t care about looks’ attitude, I am secretly checking her outfit when I see her entering the office every day.

One day, as I am finishing my working shift I see Wendy preparing herself to go on a date. She has changed into a red dress. She is doing her make-up and hair using the window glass as a mirror. She bends down, shakes her head and applies some hair spray in a duck-like move. When she stands up again she is a glamorous lady. I’m impressed. As I start making how-to questions she looks at me in surprise. She says

– I am your guru!

I sigh, surrendering

– You are – I say.

I feel as if I am in some karate kid film and I have just found my kung-fu master. She is Asian, so I do an Asian nod to close the deal. She smiles.

I am officially ready to be converted into a lady.