It’s officially hot enough in New York to melt on the sidewalk like the Wicked Witch of the West.
My studio (old tenement housing in the LES) of course does not have central air.
Instead we rely on an air conditioning unit that is shoved in one’s window and does not allow for the window to be opened or closed for the entirety of summer. Instead of eavesdropping on the chatter of the sidewalk, you get a persistent white noise hum that emanates from the unit and partially obscures said sidewalk chatter.
Well, at least it’s supposed to hum. Till one day it didn’t.
And of course all other air conditioning units were sold out at our local home goods store because New Yorkers don’t plan in advance. We react when necessary. And Tyler and I were apparently late to react.
So Tyler brought home a fan so we could eeek by with survival till an air conditioning unit came in stock.
When I walked into our apartment that night the specific hum of this fan made something shake inside of me.
I didn’t exactly know what was going on but I didn’t feel like I was in New York.
Obvioulsy my body was. I was squarely in my apartment, going through the motions of making dinner in our little kitchen, pouring some wine, feeding the dog. But my head was playing tricks on me because that specific breed of white noise was from a very different part of my life I couldn’t pinpoint but it was conjuring weird memories and emotions I hadn’t felt in years, possibly decades.
I felt weird for the next three hours, wondering how long this out of body experience was going to last, till I crawled into bed and attempted to sleep with that white noise of the fan.
And then I really was transported.
Back to when I was eight years old and would visit my dad and stepmom at their house in Pasadena on the weekends.
A house that also did not have central air and instead every room was equipped with an industrial sized fan come summer so one could survive.
I would lay in bed at night listening to that fan, willing it to actually work, to actually cool me off, and to lull me to sleep. Like everybody claims white noise does.
All of those weird, out of body experieces I was having that night was my very scared eight-year-old self showing herself again for the first time in decades.
The eight-year-old who could barely sleep through the night. Instead she would lie in the twin bed made up of pastel sheets she hated and watch the June bugs crawl on the outside of the screen door that led to the backyard.
She’d tell herself she was safe in that bed. That it was fine, everything was going to be fine. The June bugs can’t get in. She’d even repeat it aloud as necessary.
But nothing, at that time in her life, ever seemed fine.
I hadn’t thought about my eight-year-old self in so long. I was so far removed from her. I’ve had a home that felt like a home for so long now I figured I was passed all that uncertainty, and all that fear.
But then that damn fan decided to waltz into my life and the flood gates were opened.
I’ve experienced the surreal sensation of a scent memory many times. Smelling an ex-boyfriend’s cologne on the man next to me in the subway. Finding a bouquet with the specific combination of flowers that can be found blooming in my grandmother’s back yard. The smell of your best friend’s house — a mix of their laundry detergent, candle choices and pets.
But I had never experienced a sound memory.
And I would venture it was a million times more hypnotic than any scent memory I’ve ever encountered because it lasted so much longer. It wasn’t just a whiff of a memory, but rather an immersion into a past self.
Has anyone else ever experienced this?
I’m dying to know.