Monday, May 3, 2010

By the dawn's early light

I am unfortunate in that I am a light sleeper. All my life, I can recall being awakened by various sounds in the wee hours. As a child, it was traffic, mostly. Although we lived in a rural setting, the house sat next to a busy state route, which happened to be the main thoroughfare for a couple of large truck operations—lucky us. We were especially lucky during those summers when a lusty big bull occupied the empty field across the road from my bedroom window. My goodness, but that bull did have a determined note in his voice when he bellowed in the wee morning hours.

Moving out of that house brought no peace. Dorm life followed (as if that existence could ever bring peace, unless you were foolish enough to remain in the structure over a minor holiday weekend). And then, off-campus life brought new neighbors within the confines of an old, sound-unproofed house: a deaf old lady who loved her television loud, and a foolish bunch of party hounds whose best schoolwork happened drunkenly and vociferously very late at night, directly over my apartment ceiling.

The best years of sleep might have been during my years of teaching. I was blessed with relatively quiet rentals where neighbors weren't home often or made little to no sounds. However, rest was still marred by all the bad dreams that I had. Each one featured an increasingly less obedient classroom, and by the time I had thrown in the towel, my chaotic subconscious had rendered the dreams almost unbearable in their lack of closure and control.

I moved back to Pittsburgh to a very cheap rental that was a unit in an old hotel of sorts. The building was U-shaped, with all the "front" windows of apartments opening onto a center parking lot. That place was annoying in that my early morning hours on hot nights brought me out of a sound sleep, awakened by the noise and the noxious odor of someone grilling hot dogs in the parking lot. The apartment after that one? A lovely, restful third story—which just happened to be situated next to a busy stop light in which various air-braked vehicles came first to a screeching halt, then to a grinding, groaning acceleration when the stop light once again permitted them to advance. To top it off, the light featured a bus stop. Some a**hole woke me at 6 or so one morning, singing aloud the few lyrics he knew from the movie Dirty Dancing; "I...had...the time of my life...and I owe it all to youuuuuu..." Over. And over. And over. The bus finally picked him up, not before I'd imagined a few little times of my own life which may or may not have involved hurting that guy.

My first married apartment? On a city street in a no-school-bus district, where loud little children traipsed up the sidewalk shouting at each other directly under our front windows. The next residence, our first purchased home? Why, on a dead-end road leading to an illegal residual waste holding station, for which waste arrived and left in large metal dumpsters... Did I mention that the road was very dilapidated and the trucks and their loads bounced when they hit those bumps at 5:00am?

So now we're in this house, and Verizon sits at our back, another illegal operation which was only supposed to house offices, not trucks and supplies—and which now stores bucket vehicles, treated poles, and immense spools of every type of wire you can imagine. They love to back up their vehicles at 4:30 and 5 in the morning. "Beep, beep, beep." During snowy mornings, those Verizon folks are so on top of things that they plow and scrape the sidewalk, loudly, before dawn. And don't forget the barking dog down the street, the canine squeak toy that I already moaned about here. Apparently, his bladder is tiny. Stupid dog.

I've announced over and over that the next house will be AWAY. I will not agree to another home/property purchase until there's the promise that I'll neither hear nor see another human being. But in this general area of the world, is that possible? Realistic? Un-Christian of me? I just want a good night's sleep. And yet, will that require a soundproof room, so I can't hear my son stirring? Will a good night's sleep allow any wiggle room for being shaken awake by my night-owl husband coming to bed? My wakeful husband, whose solution is simply to blast a fan for white noise, which is what we do for my son. But I hate the fan. It dries out my eyes and nose. It makes me wake up coughing in the night. I feel so isolated when it's blurring my contact with the outside world, when I have to wonder whether I'd hear an intruder in our home or my child being sick in his bed sheets.

Is there a solution? An adequate escape? Has the whole world given up and is resting peacefully, albeit cough-fully, against the soundtrack of a loud fan?

It's the principle of the matter, really: I shouldn't need to block out the world to get some rest. And yet.

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