Sunday, April 5th, 2020
I lie still, taking in this new day. Quiet. Not one passing car. No sounds of radiators, revelers, neighbors, contractors, car alarms, or crows. Not even a fly or a child in the playground.
After a while, I hear my neighbor to the south and realize the tenants above me have fled. I don’t hear them as often, so I had not noticed the change. Some absences go unnoticed. Some can be enjoyed, while others can barely be endured.
The near silence of these odd days does not extend indefinitely. When the quiet is broken, it is by a distinct sound, one that can be identified, if not enjoyed. Discerning the quality of a singular sound is an entirely new experience in this place. It reminds me of bedtime as a youth, at what always seemed like too early an hour. I lay in bed, identifying every voice and every sound made by those who did not seem to have bedtimes.
After years of this youthful practice, I became able to identify individual pots, pans, and lids, as well as which doors closed, opened, or squeaked. It did not require any effort; I guess it was like a kid who picks up a second or third language just by hearing it.
Recent hints confirmed my suspicion that something has changed on the streets. Eye contact, while not back to normal, has significantly shifted from two or three days ago. I met eyes—which is to say I made visual contact with several strangers during a downtown run. The “why” of this change, in such a short time, is not clear to me, but I don’t think everything needs to be explained.
A 1988 essay on eye contact and its absence in Venice can be found here.