I hear the noise of running water and I know there’s a term for it. There are a lot of terms for running water; babbling, gurgling, bubbling, and perhaps a few more, but there’s a term for hearing sounds right before sleep and that term escapes me, even as I drift in between being awake and being asleep. I lived in Tifton Georgia many years ago and heard a freight train’s horn in the distance. I was falling asleep but I had always been told a tornado sounded like a freight train and the idea of a tornado having a horn made me laugh hard enough to wake me up. I got up and sat in the window and listened to the train go by and I wondered if the people on that train, however many there were, knew someone was listening to them pass by in the night?
When I had an apartment downtown I liked to eavesdrop on people on the street and in a way I miss that sort of one sided interaction but it’s not a habit of choice; when you live downtown there are people there all the time whether or not you like it or do not like it. Late at night there were brief hours of near silence but rarely was the silence complete or unbroken. There was a man who stood under my window one night and cursed another man, drunkenly and repeatedly, until it was to the point of neurosis. I mean, how many times, even when a person is really drunk, do they have to yell the same pejorative over and over and over again?
While I drift in and out of sleep I can just imagine the brain of a drunk being saturated by alcohol in an endless and slow stream. Like the faucet that is still running, or is it, there isn’t enough drying time or drainage to keep the brain truly alive or truly functioning. It’s a long term poisoning to the point that even when there is time enough to dry and even when the flow stops, the brain keep operating as if the drug was still there, to some degree, because that’s what it has been trained to do for so long. It’s like watching the same reruns all the time or eating the same food every day or never changing the way you wear your hair. Your brain gets used to being that same thing all the time so when a drunk stays drunk the brain stays drunk even when it isn’t anymore.
I wake up enough to realize there is no running water but as I drift again I can hear the same sound again. I don’t really hear the sound, I know I don’t, but suddenly I begin to wonder where I would have to live so I would. The last time I was at the beach I could hear the sound of the waves at night, infinite white noise after a while, and the time before that I marveled at the energy that went into those waves that sound, the hearing of that sound, and how it went on without ever ending at all. I’ve never lived near running water and that’s a shame; I think I would really like it.
When there was flooding several years ago I found a red shoe, a woman’s shoe, and I wonder by what event she lost it. The mate to it never washed up and I didn’t expect it to either, but somewhere both shoes existed apart from one another, like lovers who have broken up but are still very deeply in love. I tossed the red shoe back into the water on the off chance its mate was still downstream waiting and I was a little worried that one day the other would appear, looking for its sole mate, and damning me for releasing it back into the watery highway.
Being a writer is like that sometimes, you get caught up in your own fiction.
There is, I have been told, a house that straddles a creek in South Georgia. The living room has a glass bottom to it and the people can see the water underneath but fishermen can see the people up above. It’s deep, really deep in the woods, but the people there still have problems with fisherfolk and the curious wanting to come in and look around. The curiosity in normal but it must get old living in a tourist attraction. The last tornado that came through this area created a lot of misery in its wake and a lot of people were driving up and down the roads taking photos of ruined homes and the lives of other people strew about in the chaos. One man parked his truck at the end of his driveway to keep people out and people stopped, with their blinkers on, waiting for the truck to pull out so they might pull in and get a closer look at the damage. Another man was hauling around a trailer behind his truck picking up metal roofing and aluminum that had been blown off houses, and all of this just hours after the tornado hit. I heard it sounded like a freight train when it came through.
I drift more deeply now; the gravitational pull of exhaustion is irresistible. There are the beginnings of real dreams now, shapes and places and people begin to assemble for the night’s activities. The curtain moves around as actors take their places and the light begin to dim. The brain begins to flow in the direction of the subconscious now and what is a real turns into background noise and what was not real begins to become reality. The running water is forgotten in place of other forms of hallucinations. The world becomes something else for a while. I can feel sleep taking over the real would and it is a welcome relief to the thoughts that ran through my mind like a river.