Whatever it may be...the vacant lot in a sea of McMansions calls to me. The neighborhood is eerily empty. Families and couples out celebrating the holiday and their love for one another, as they should be. I am able to focus immediately. I hear what is immediately around me first...
I hear leaves. Dead leaves. I hear them rustle under my puppy’s feet. I hear them whisper to each other as the wind winds through their dreary, crispy maze. I hear them tumble over one another to escape the piercingly cold weather, only to be halted by the rattle of a chain link fence. I hear the leaves daintily crumble under the pressure of the puppy’s foot.
I hear her collar jingle. Softly, at first. She must be turning her head in curiosity. I visualize the collar turning with her, creating a ripple effect, only slightly behind its controller. She runs to satiate said curiosity, the collar running with her. It gains momentum, clanging at first, but increases so that it may be mistaken for an overzealous dinner bell.
The ringing collar stops abruptly. She must be distracted. I focus on enlarging my sound circle, extending it to the song of birds in trees I imagine to be high of the ground. They sound far away. Hopeful. Cheerful, even. The day's bright sun pierces through my closed lids and inspires them to sing to one another, wishing for the winter months to fade into warm summers. Ah, but it’s a tease. The biting wind whizzes past my earlobes, simultaneously stinging the skin’s surface and drawing blood towards the exposed appendages. My fingertips grow numb.
The ever-present sound of engines had been in the background until this moment. A polite honk of the horn, perhaps someone stuck at a green light, grabs my attention. I am now very aware of the consistent hum of vehicles. They climb the sound barrier, beginning as a distant whirr, building to a slow and constant vroom, and fading just as quickly as it climaxed. I am completely drawn to this sound. My mind challenges me to hear beyond it, and yet the cacophony refuses to cease. Instead of nature, I am reminded of technology and concrete and greenhouse gases.
It takes several moments of concentration, but I begin to listen again. I hear a bark, but not one whose origins are canine. This bark has bounced off of many walls and fences and trees to reach my eardrums. It is the end of an echo, the last sound wave of many.
There’s a bang to my right. It startles me. I hear it only once, and attribute the noise to old ramshackle storage sheds slowly dismantling in the neighborhood behind me, or an abandoned crowbar thrown poorly atop an unstable surface, unable to hold its resting place. Once I have convinced myself of this, I hear it again. And again. And again, but louder. I cannot see where the noise originates, but my ears tell me it is to my right. There is not a soul within 100 feet, I’m sure of it. I recognize the thought as silly, but I entertain notions of danger. Should I return to the safety and warmth of my home? Or satiate my curiosity?
The dog hears it too. Her feet trot across leaves long forgotten, leaves that became a part of the earth once their glorious fall color faded to a moth brown. She is heading to the right, towards the sound. Her fierce but apprehensive bark halts the banging. I feel her looking back at me for reassurance. I attempt to remain calm, and cheerfully call her to me. Drawn to happiness rather than danger, she joyfully sprints across the crusty ground to meet my embrace.