Noises in the night

Suzie Eisfelder

My body hates me. I say this not to complain but as a prelude to help you understand why I was awake in the middle of the night.

Eczema was stopping me sleeping. It was a warm night and I’d woken up very itchy. Unless you suffer from eczema it’s really hard to help you understand how hard it is not to scratch. It’s a compulsion and scratching doesn’t actually stop the itch it just makes it worse while also making it better. That’s an odd sentence, but if you suffer then you’ll understand. It’s a bit like a mosquito bite that absolutely must be scratched, but instead of one bite it’s more like a couple of hundred. 

This particular night, as with most nights when I wake up itchy, it was warm. In order to get back to sleep I needed to get out of bed and cool down. The cooling down can take an hour or more and it’s only when I can feel all of my skin tingling with cool that I can get back to bed secure in the knowledge that I can get a few more hours of sleep. 

I was sitting in my office drinking water, to hydrate, and reading my book. I do try not to turn on my computer but the noises in the night made me want to write. My book at the time was The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni and Alastair Reid), and when I have enough of that I then read an entry of The Creative Gene by Hideo Kojima (translated by Nathan A Collins).

The Book of Sand is a series of short stories. I think it would be easier to read a novel with an easy-to-spot storyline but that would have meant picking up another book and I don’t like reading more than one book at a time. Reading both of these books together are an oddity for me. 

I find Borges hard to read. I think because I don’t have a handle on the culture that he was writing in. He was born in Argentina in 1899 and generally wrote about Argentinian culture. For me, having been born and bred in Australia I don’t have the insight into a culture where English is not the main language. And it’s something you can’t google, I’ve tried. I can only get an understanding by reading more books by Borges or speaking to Argentineans, possibly even eating their food. Mmmm…food.

We read some Borges at uni and I never really found a good insight into his works there, either. I will continue to work my way through his book because I’m determined to finish it. I’m not hating it, just not understanding it. Two totally different things. Sometimes I enjoy his phrasing.

The Creative Gene is another book that I can only read in bits and pieces. It is compositions by Kojima, pieces he has had published over the years in various publications and brought together into a whole. Each article is very thought provoking and I find it hard to read more than one or two at a time as I need time to sit and absorb before moving on.

This is why I was sitting listening to the noises of the night. I’d finished reading two short stories by Borges and one piece by Kojima. I was not ready to go back to bed as only a little of my skin was tingling and I was still very itchy. I didn’t feel it right to read more of either author and didn’t want to get distracted by another book. And that’s when I noticed the little noises.

Little pinging noises as if little berries were dropping on the ground and on the garage roof nearby. They couldn’t be berries as it’s the wrong season and the berries haven’t ripened yet. You can see them beginning but they’re not big enough for the birds or possums to eat. When that happens then I’ll have trees slathered in small red or orange berries. It’s really quite gorgeous to look at and I always marvel at nature that provides food at just the right time for birds and animals.

They couldn’t be leaves as that’s a lot of falling leaves and that’s something I’d notice the next morning. I only swept the driveway in the last few days while we had no electricity. It was one action that didn’t need any artificial light. I have noticed the driveway doesn’t stay clean as we have a lot of big trees along it. While they do shed leaves at any time of the year the noises were far more than the leaves that I’d noticed since sweeping.

Maybe I was hearing the possums eating, but I didn’t think they’d be that noisy. And the birds would all be asleep, just as I should have been.

Underpinning those little noises which I haven’t identified was a less natural noise. It was the sound of cars on the road. At 4am it’s rather too early for lots of cars and yet that’s what I thought I could hear. Maybe not a lot of cars, but certainly a consistent noise of cars. That noise doesn’t block out the little, natural noises which are very much closer to me, but it is very prevalent. Although, having turned on my computer to write these few words I’m hearing the cars less than before. I didn’t think my computer was that loud but I’m now mostly hearing the occasional truck rather than cars. We do live near a main road and only a kilometre or so from an even larger road.

Did the pieces I read by Borges and Kojima have discussions about noise? Not really. The piece I read by Kojima was about the movie, Bladerunner, and how it is a cult movie rather than a movie that made a lot of money in the early screenings thirty years prior. The only noises mentioned in this is the noise of people talking and being happy about being together with people who understand their passion for this movie, and also the song by Vangelis used in the closing credits. Background noise is prominent by its absence in the pieces by Borges I read tonight. 

And I’d been at my desk so long that the birds had just started their wake up calls. It begins with just one bird and then ends for a while. There will be more, I’ve been awake at this time other nights and despite the call starting and finishing while I was writing my previous paragraph I know the birds will start up again soon. I might go back to bed and lie there listening for the birds, maybe that will be the final step that will put me to sleep for a few hours.

P.S. I read the title piece ‘The Book of Sand’ and found it a brilliant work. Maybe I needed to admit to my shortcomings as a reader before the writing started to work its magic on me or maybe it just fits my mind better.

P.P.S.I fell asleep listening for the sounds of birds, but I don’t recall hearing any more bird noises, though.

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