Things That Go Boom in the Night

Last night we heard what sounded like an explosion. I still can’t find any news reports about it–plenty of emergency vehicles materialized in the neighborhood, but no one seemed to be able to find the source of the noise. One neighbor, a combat veteran, said he’d seen some kids run into the bushes and assumed someone had been shot. Another guy claimed to have seen a flash and was sure a transformer had blown.

The last time I called 911 was five years ago, when a man was shot and killed several doors down from the apartment where I lived. In the aftermath it felt like everyone in the neighborhood was standing around on our porches and balconies, watching police and EMS come and go, some of us answering questions from a Herald reporter walking up and down the block. We’d heard gunshots? Were we sure? The answer is that once you’ve heard gunshots in person, you don’t really mistake them for anything else.

When I was growing up, the most sinister noises I could hear at night were probably just the odd possum or raccoon trying to root through our trash. I was afraid of wildfires and coyotes. I still instinctively flinch when I see a dog off leash. One dog on his own might run at your livestock, but two together could make a sport of it.

Then I moved to Boston.

In my freshman year of college, my dorm sat directly atop the subway route. Mass Ave ran just past my window. I could feel the whole building shake when the train slowly rumbled below and I couldn’t seem to block out the red and blue when flashing lights passed on the street at night. Our proctor assured us that we’d get used to the sounds of the city and I didn’t believe her until a few weeks later I realized I’d been reading in bed all night and hadn’t even noticed all those sights and sounds.

I’ve never really felt unsafe in this city. Just the other night I walked home–nearly a mile–well after midnight. I was maybe a little spooked when the lights at two intersections suddenly went dead, but I didn’t feel unsafe. I’m privileged enough to know that if I call the cops they’ll probably come pretty quickly (particularly since there’s a good chance plenty of my neighbors will call them, too) and that they’ll believe my answers if they ask me questions. But for the past couple of years I’ve found myself compulsively (irrationally) checking behind the shower curtain when I get home, just to make sure no one’s lurking there. I check my apartment door once, twice, three times before I go to bed.

There is no point to this post. I heard a loud noise last night and I still don’t know what it was. I don’t like that feeling.


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