“Dorothy? Can I stay overnight at your place? I have to go to the dentist relatively early in the morning on Monday. I don’t want to have to drive in at 5″30 in the morning to get there. Besides, we could go out and have dinner. I haven’t seen you for a month. ”

And so it was that Kay stayed for the first time ever at Dorothy’s on Sunday night.


Kay pulled her leg warmers down over her feet, lowered them to the carpet and tiptoed to the bedroom door, down the hall to the guest bathroom, entered, closed the door, turned the handle carefully and slowly so that there was no sound and then turned on the light.

Her hostess Dorothy was sleeping in the next room, door open wide.

Just before retiring, Dorothy had remarked, “I leave the door open ever since this apartment was broken into. I don’t know what I’d do if someone came in, but it makes me feel better if I can hear what is going on in the apartment. I listen for noises. Just after the break-in, I listened all night. Now I sleep better, but I still think I’m alert now, even in my sleep.”

Kay wasn’t about to waken Dorothy with unaccustomed light nor noises. They’d had a rather fun evening exploring the Paint program in amongst the Accessories, creating an imaginary character with wool-like hair, spectacles and a goatee. Kay was handling the laptop “mouse pad” mechanism for the first time in the Paint program, resulting in hilarious errors as the “mouse” leapt across the drawing in a straight line, or erased a critical nose part, only to be restored by a simple “undo” action.

Returning to her warm bed, Kay reversed the sequence, always mindful of the bullet sharp sounds that every movement seemed to make. She crawled back in under the covers, pulled them up under her chin and then, far too awake, assessed the niggling sensation behind her eyes. “Oh, not another migraine,” she bewailed silently. She was expected at the dentist at eleven. There was no way she could allow the darned migraine to invade and take over. Dental appointments were too hard to get and she was already in town to get it. Living in the outskirts had its disadvantages – the long trip into town was a major one.

Once again she rose, pulled her leg warmers over her feet. Tile floors were just too cold to bear. She turned on the light which was overpowering, given the shift from almost black night to an overhead hundred-watt bulb. and she started to empty her travelling tote, piece by piece. It hadn’t been emptied since her Ottawa Christmas trip. Here were black ink drawing pens closed up in Ziplock plastic bags (to ensure they didn’t explode with pressure in high altitude) and business cards, also enclosed in Ziplock, to keep them clean and to protect the corners ), the toothbrush and tooth paste bag, the diary in case she decided to write, her sketch book, the Ramabai Espinet novel, her wallet, her red belt, and finally the bag with medications for travel sickness, for migraine and daily vitamins.

Kay extracted a single migraine remedy then returned all the unneeded items to the large black tote Now she needed water to take it with and a bit of food. The little warning messages on the pill bottle were not there for nothing.

This meant another silent foray out into the hallway and down to the kitchen to get the water. Kay carefully doused the light, opened the door, tiptoed down the hallway in the dark. The low light coming from the outside street light was sufficient for navigation.

In the dark and sombre kitchenette, she extracted a used cup from the sink. She had no idea whose cup was whose, but at this point, it mattered little. She couldn’t go poking in cupboards nor was she about to run more water than she needed to wash the darned thing.

Kay set the cup under the tap and opened the valve slowly hoping the trickle of water would be less noisy than a full rush of water. Then she shifted over to the microwave and carefully opened the door, controlling the opening mechanism slowly so that it would not make a sound. With the light from the open microwave door, she selected and set her buttons, One minute, then Start, and placed the cup inside. Carefully, she controlled the opening mechanism as she now shut the door.

CLUNK! The door closed and began to whir in a loud fan roar.

All the caution in the world had not helped attenuate the sound. For one full minute, the fan growled as the microwave platter spun. Kay’s ears perked like a cat’s on mouse patrol. Nothing else stirred. Perhaps Dorothy would sleep through this. Heaven’s knew, we’d headed to bed late, and Dorothy had to leave for work at seven-thirty. There was only a half hour before the alarm would go off.

Back in the guest room, Kay extracted a snack pack of Hawkins Cheesies from her tote. The plastic wrapper crackled and rustled as she opened it. Bon Dieu! Would nothing stay silent! Kay grumbled to herself. One never knew when such a medical emergency kit as Cheesies might be needed. She swallowed the pill, drank down the warm quaff of water and munched a few of the cheddar treats.

Moments later, she turned off the light and she was back under the covers, awake, alert, waiting for the medicine to take effect. It was the one dubious pleasure of the migraines or the near migraines. The pills activated a light show that rivaled the Benson and Hedges fireworks displays. Behind her closed eyelids, a lime coloured blob would slowly form and swim upwards being replaced by a luminous purple shape, equally fluid in form. The purple would swim leisurely upwards, replaced by a red blob, following. The lime would reappear, push the other shapes up and out of view only for them to reappear underneath chasing the red. Tucked in the interstices of the moving colour show were rich dark colours made up of tiny pixels in red, green and black.

Kay drifted into the colours, warm and pleased that the trace of migraine was completely disappearing. If only she could have an hour of uninterrupted sleep, she would be just fine for the dentist at eleven. It had been 5:30 when she had doused the guest room overhead light.

“Are you moving?”

It was Dorothy’s wake up call, bright and brittle. Kay looked at her watch. Seven o’clock. Funny how the three weeks past the Winter Solstice had brought back an earlier morning light with it.

She had to be away by seven thirty, on the road for other appointments before the dentist. She rose and dressed, packed her belongings ready to go. There was no need to be silent now. There was no time to waste. The world was stirring and Dorothy was making a noisy clatter in the kitchen drawing the frying pan from the cupboard, the cupboard doors and the fridge doors opening and closing.

As we finished eating an omelet, Kay asked, “Did you hear me get up in the night? Did you hear me in the kitchen?”

“I heard you move around. I went right back to sleep. I didn’t hear you in the kitchen.”

As Kay drove off in my car a few minutes later, she reflected on the nature of sound – how a simple sound is lost in a normal context; how it amplifies in the silence of the night like an explosion or a gunshot; how it can comfort, like the whir of the furnace automatically turning on; or disturb, like the newspaper hitting the screen door at midnight in a quiet house; or puzzle, when a steady drip cannot be found; but a sound that never seems to tone into it’s surroundings is the CLUNK of the microwave door.


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