This weekend, I started hearing voices.
Tiny, tinny voices in barely audible bursts, piping up periodically over a long evening alone while I searched them out in vain, and then again the next night.
At first, I thought maybe we were picking up some interference on our landline cordless phone, but that wasn’t it. I put my ear to the wall, thinking maybe it was trickling in from the apartment next door. I double-checked the old digital answering machine in case the recorder had corrupted and was playing smothered bits of garbled old messages.
I checked the volume on my laptop, then on The Fella’s laptop; maybe one of us had left a YouTube tab open and it was, I don’t know, buffering and playing a few seconds at a time. I even bent down and listened to the cable box, wifi router, and TV speakers, wondering if somehow they were sending out tiny blasts of static that my brain was translating into words.
Was it coming from outside the apartment? Maybe someone was doing laundry in the basement under our living room and listening to a staticky radio down there. Maybe someone on the neighbors’ porch was wearing a walkie-talkie. Or maybe a cable-company worker was up a pole somewhere I couldn’t see, with his walkie squawking quietly down to me.
But here’s the part that made me so eager to find a rational source for these tiny little voices: I recognized them.
Yeeeeah. I would have shrugged it off, but I knew these tiny voices, and knew them well. I found them weirdly familiar, comfortable, sympathetic.
After two days interrupted by brief searches for the source of these voices, I shrugged and gave up, perplexed and a little unsettled.
And then on Monday morning, I grabbed my iPod and discovered it had been sitting on the living room table playing RadioLab podcasts at a low volume… since Saturday. Instead of turning it off, I’d turned it down. Every so often, Jad Abumrad or Robert Krulwich would get excited about something and RAISE THEIR VOICES — their oh-so-familiar and friendly voices — which I would juuuuuust barely hear through the earbuds.