19 February 2011

Another engine

I sing. I've always sung. I like to sing. I can't sing.

I sing anyway.

And god, I'm loud.

Marginally, I can carry a tune. I was in the choral group for three years, so I wasn't utterly hopeless. I just don't have a very nice voice.

(Possibly, I was in the choral group because I could carry off the boys' parts. Possibly also because I'm loud.)

Generally, I have the good grace to keep my singing to myself. I close the windows and the doors. I sing when I'm alone, usually when I'm cleaning or on the exercise bike. Occasionally, I've been known to belt out a chorus when I've been on a walk, but only if I'm pretty certain that there's no one in earshot.

Back in my last years of singledom, I had a really lovely second-floor apartment in Sherman Oaks. It was large and light, and I loved to sit in the middle of the living room floor on Sunday mornings in a bright patch of sun and read the papers while I had my morning coffee. It was such a nice apartment that it made my tatty belongings look nice, too. I was happy there.

One pretty day, I had all the windows open. The air was soft and warm, and I set to cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. I put my Walkman on because I wanted music, but I didn't want to disturb the various neighbors by turning on my stereo.

The street where I lived was mostly populated by apartment buildings similar to the one I was in: long and low, built in the 1960s and 70s, generally non-descript. The exception was the narrow condo building that overlooked my apartment. It was new and sparkly, very California 1980s, with little patio balconies, one of which looked directly into my kitchen window.

So there I was that fine and beautiful morning, scrubbing shower walls with gusto, and eventually I moved into the kitchen, polishing the counters and scouring the stove top. While I was shining up the kitchen sink, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye: a woman was sitting on the little balcony overlooking my (open) kitchen window, with a book in her lap, smiling a little as she looked over at me.

It was only then that I realized I was singing.

At the top of my lungs.

I gave her a small sheepish wave, and fled into the tiny hallway of my apartment, hands over mouth, huffing with laughter and embarrassment. When, after a little, I ventured timidly back into the kitchen, she had gone from the balcony, and I gently closed the window.

All in all, I'm sure everyone would have preferred the stereo.

Go listen to some good music: "Auctioneer (Another Engine)" from the album Fables of the Reconstruction by REM. I was singing something by REM that morning, probably off Life's Rich Pageant. That poor woman. I'm still embarrassed.

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