The night is like a megaphone. Vibrations are gathered and amplified as the daytime music of the world settles and dampens. When everything is dark, and I am left with my thoughts, the night is a chorus of sounds to frighten or comfort as I lay awake thinking or trying to not think about what is and what is no longer here.
The frogs live in the garden behind the house. It starts with one. He chirps out one note, and then pauses before calling the same note again. As he continues, another frog joins in and makes it a duet. Her note is different, but they coordinate their song as a call and response, her note hitting the air and on his down beat, back and forth, back and forth. A third joins in on his own unique tone, and then a fourth and a fifth, some on the same rhythm as an earlier singer, some finding their own moment to sing. As more join in, the sound swells and swells, until the randomness of the notes and the consistency of the rhythm hit an equilibrium and it become a ringing cacophony of sound. The volume of the song is intense and they seem to be singing in my head, their chirping notes bouncing around in my skull. I fight to distinguish one frog from another, to count how many there are, but it is too much. They have become one voice. One by one the singers drop out of the chorus, until the one lonely frog who started it all is left performing a mournful solo. Chirp… chirp… chirp… and then nothing.
Cats prowl over the rooftops, looking for garbage, or maybe a stray bird stupid enough to nest down in the eves. Unlike in the States, where their lives are forced into the rhythm of the humans who own them, these cats belong to no one, and their natural instincts as creatures of the night are unfettered. When the heat of the day blankets the dusty roads and cooks the corrugated tin roofs, the cats disappear into thickets, under houses, and maybe to corners in the homes of tolerant people. But at night, the village is their hunting ground. I hear the soft thump of padded feet landing over me, and the quiet rustle of leaves as they steal their way through the debris. Sometimes there is the flapping of wings as a group of prey make their escape and take to the skies, searching for a new safer place to pass the night. Sometimes I can hear screeching cries, letting me know they’ve run into a foe on their nightly prowl. A dog, or another cat who’s ignore their territorial boundaries. The screams are jarring and otherworldly, as if it is not a familiar cat, but strange and violent creatures that are battling outside my door.
People think that roosters crow at dawn, but it isn’t true. They start between 2:30 and 3:00 am, long before the light begins to fade up like the opening act of a play, bathing the world in it’s rosy glow. Long before the sun itself peaks up over the lip of the hills announcing that the day has officially begun. The roosters sing to the dark black world as if calling for the sun to return, as oppose to celebrating her arrival. Or maybe they just want us to hear them, to scream their existence into the sky. When the world is rushing by under the bright Ecuadorian sun, their crows seem so insignificant. Their voices are only a nuisance that is easy to ignore. The silence of the night gives their calls a reverence. Listen to me! I am here! I am!
The echos of the waves rumble across the village, like the thumping base of a distant night club. When the tide is high, there is a long low pull as the energy of the ocean scraps against the sand, and then the break leaps through the air before pounding down against the shore. The watery hands of a drum circle …shhhhhhhh….BOOM… and then a sigh. Sometimes, it sounds like they are crashing right outside the front door, licking at the walls, beckoning me to grab a board and run out to the water with only the full moon as my guide through the crests. The waves are dangerous and unpredictable. Even their music is a demonstration of their humbling power. But they are also the sound consistency and comfort. I’ll never wake up one morning and discover that the ocean that I’ve loved, feared and counted on has disappeared in the night for reasons I’ll never understand. They are a lullaby, the hum of meditation, and a warning.
Dedicated to Carlos Arturo De La Torre (January 10, 1986 – September 3, 2011)
Original published September 19, 2011, on tumblr as “Los Sonidos de la Noche”.