The Voice

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It was a recent Saturday in July when I heard it for the first time.

The mid-afternoon, pale winter sun was slanting through the half-open wooden blinds covering my bedroom window. I was standing near it, the rays drawing stripes of light and shadow across my body. I was getting ready to go to a party, and at that instant, the top half of me was almost entirely enveloped by a vapour of perfume.

I once read that perfume should never be sprayed directly onto the skin, but instead, upwards into the air. Then you are supposed to walk through the cascading mist so that the aroma can subtly, seductively, cling to you. Of course, I always forget to do it like that, and usually end up heavy-handedly dousing my entire neck and both wrists, as I did that day as well.

I was flustered, rushing to get ready before my ride to the party would arrive, yet also somewhat distracted by the show playing on the radio. The programme diverting my attention from being fully absorbed in the act of applying my mascara was Weekend Edition on NPR. National Public Radio, my favourite American talk radio station, which I’m still utterly amazed and thrilled to hear all the way on the other side of the world, thanks to the miracle of modern satellite radio.

Suddenly, I heard a gorgeous, male voice launching into an aria. Now, NPR is definitely what one could call a 'cultured' station. It caters to a diverse, discerning audience, and although the programme line-up mostly consists of talk shows and news, there are regular music shows too, devoted to an array of musical styles which includes jazz, blues and classical. But in that particular segment of the show I was listening to at that moment, the interviewer was chatting to an author about his upcoming novel. There was no music playing – not even in the background – but just to be certain, I muted the radio anyway. And sure enough, the rich baritone timbre still sounded. Until it abruptly stopped.

I waited in silent anticipation, hoping that it would start again so that I could figure out where exactly it was coming from. But the only singers willing to keep performing were the birds enthusiastically chirping outside. Other than that, the immediate vicinity was completely quiet. After a few silent minutes had passed, I pressed the mute button again, and - just as I was getting engrossed in the still-ongoing author interview again - the singing resumed. I dove for the radio once more, muting it for a second time.

Prompting the singer to immediately stop again.

“You must’ve imagined it!” was the general consensus when I later told people at the party about the mysterious voice.

“A ghost!” A champagne-toting guest volunteered.

Luckily no one was cheeky enough to proffer the possibility that my particular strain of insanity now apparently included operatic voices in my head, solely present to serenade me. I began to consider the idea of a ghost. It was a rather romantic notion. Perhaps my former sweetheart – a talented tenor – was haunting me? After all, hearing his perpetual, cheerful singing throughout our shared Baltimore rowhouse is one of the things I still miss the most about him. So maybe he was the ghost? Of course, the only extremely large hole in that theory was the fact that he is still very much alive, kicking (although, not the bucket) and performing with an a cappella group in Washington, D.C.

Over the following days, I kept my radio’s volume turned down, hoping that the voice would come wafting through my window or walls again. To no avail. The prolonged silence made me wonder whether the whole thing hadn’t just been a figment of my imagination – as so many of the party goers had claimed. Or perhaps I had been tripping after inhaling all that perfume I had drenched myself with that afternoon?

About a week later, I ran into my landlady. “I’ve heard the most amazing voice…” I said.

“Oh, yes, I’ve been meaning to tell you,” she replied. “The place next to yours isn’t vacant anymore. The new tenant is a student at the Conservatory.”

And just like that, the musical mystery was solved. Even though the shroud of secrecy had been lifted, I still wanted to hear him sing again.

One night, while I was watching television, he unwittingly answered my wish. This time, I waited a while before slowly turning down the sound on the TV. Since his bathroom window is situated right next to my bedroom window, I could tell that he was testing the acoustics in the shower. (Yes, I was really putting the ear in voyeur!)

Despite sharing a courtyard, our schedules are so different that we didn’t bump into each other for the longest time. I did see him, fleetingly, out of the corner of my eye once while standing out there, chatting to my landlady, but he literally sprinted by in a blur on his way to class.

And then, the Saturday before last, we finally met. I was on my way out, locking my door. It was a beautiful afternoon. He was sitting in his lounge, the windows flung wide open. When I closed the door, the sound drew his attention and he turned around. As I looked over, he gave a little wave and came to the door, where we finally shook hands and introduced ourselves.

After going through the preliminaries, I said: “I don’t mean to embarrass you,” (and as soon as I said that, I ended up doing precisely that, of course) "but I just have to tell you that you have the most AMAZING voice. Please sing often and louder!”

The poor guy immediately flushed crimson. “I’m so sorry…”

“No, seriously! Please! I lived with a tenor for years, and I miss it.”

He shyly brushed his fingers through his short, blonde hair. “I wasn’t sure how loudly I could practice,” he said. "So if you're sure..."

Ever since then, every night at around this time, he hops into his shower and works through some of his repertoire. When he does, I immediately mute my radio or TV, sit back, close my eyes, and enjoy the show.

Because these days, he doesn’t stop when he hears that everything has gone suspiciously quiet on my side of the wall!

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16 Comments

Po said:

Wow, free entertainment, most people probably have to pay lots of money to go hear his voice!

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

I know, right? Aren't I lucky? (And he is at it again RIGHT NOW! LAAAAAAAAA LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA....aaah, such bliss!) I don't know if people are already paying loads of money to see him (probably not, since he is only a first year now) but if he sticks to it, they definitely will have to, one day. The dude is SERIOUSLY talented.

Happy Birthday said:

Greetings Ms. Red,

Happy trigesimo quinto cumpleanos

Happy Dertig vyfde Verjaardag


from: N 39.16.02 / W 76.47.55

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

Why, Mr. Happy Birthday, I do believe I have managed to figure out your identity! (I have sent you an e-mail, so if you are indeed you, you would have received it by now!) Of course, the coordinates leading me straight to Ellicott City, Howard County, Maryland, The United States of America, certainly helped! (Usually I'm terrible at navigation, but thank Google! I didn't get lost this time!) As for your multi-lingual birthday wishes, why: Muchas Gracias, Señor! Baie dankie, meneer!

Seriously though, darlin'. It was a really nice surprise. Thank you! Wish you could come over for a cup of coffee (or seven). Will you ONLY come here for an aerial photography gig? Or can I aim to try for something more down-to-earth too?

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

P.S. Meant to say, your comment ended up in my spam box due to your fake... I mean, totally clandestine e-mail address!

Happy Birthday Again said:

Ms. Red,

I think you have me confused for someone else,
As an email from you, I have not yet received,
So, I hope that you do not feel terribly deceived.

You navigation skills are on target and the coordinates I provided were not a deception.

While I have a camera, I usually keep my feet on the ground.

And coffee has never been my cup of (iced) tea.

I actually met you slightly over a decade ago. But in a way, you could say that I also first met you in the 60's, 70's and 80's.

Thats all the hints for now.

I hope that all your birthday wishes come true.

Marco said:

Hello my hart se middelpunt

Sounds like you made the poor guy's liver quiver!

"He shyly brushed his fingers through his short, blonde hair."
You do know what his body language is screaming, don't you? :D

I could give this guy a run for his money though. I do a mean version of "Sproeitjies" just for you ;-)

Marco said:

Oh, and for our coffee date, I will bring along my home made 'Banoffee pie' - it's divine even if I have to say so myself.

We'e still on for that date, aren't we? ;-)

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

Marco: Sorry for only responding now. For once I have an excuse other than laziness. I've taken ill! Apparently that's what happens in one's old age... I have even, believe it or not, temporarily gone off the coffee! But don't worry, I'll be back on it by 2011 (even, I suspect, by later today), so of course we're still on for our date. Okay, not being a cook, I can guess that the 'offee' in Banoffee Pie either means coffee or toffee, but I'm afraid the 'Ban' has me stumped.

Happy Birthday Again: I'm afraid you also have me stumped. Are you male or female? If the latter, is it you Dr. D, the rocket scientist chick?

Marco said:

You, my dear, are like one of those rare (red) wines.

Less than 10 percent of all wines produced have the ability to improve with age. Over time, red wine tannins intermingle with oxygen, forming chains of protein that eventually grow large enough to fall out of solution as evidenced by the sediment you see in older bottles. This reaction softens the wine while making it more harmonious with its other components.

So you only grow better with age ;-)

As for the Banoffee Pie, if ever you have a chance, there are pics of me on FB making one :-)

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

Happy Birthday Person: So, was I right in guessing your identity the second time around? I'm really curious!

Marco: More like old red wine (like Tassies) that's been left open for too long. Have you ever tasted red wine when it's been left open for a few days? Or even a day? Vinegar is like sugar, in comparison! I'll definitely look for those pics of you making the Banoffee pie! I doubt that it will give me any more clues as to what the ingredients are, though! I'm still not back on the coffee! *Alarmed*

Belated Happy Birthday said:

Ms. Red,

I am definitely not a chick and while I am not a rocket scientist, I used to work down the street from some of them.

As far as rocket scientists go, what exactly have they been doing for the past 40 years since that "one giant leap for mankind"? Maybe if they got their act together, we would have warp drive by now and would be able to visit the mysterious planet, that like your hair is also Red? Or maybe anyone would be able to fly across the earth in a matter of minutes to visit someone who has long since forgotten them?

On second thought, perhaps it is best to remain forgotten...

Lewe lank 'n floreer

Marco said:

Not to be a spoil sport, but I think the 'mystery man' game is reaching snore-factoring 10 at warp speed!

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnyway, I just wanted to say, does that mean I get to taste you to make up my mind? :D

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

Happy birthday Person: I'm too curious to let it go. I've eliminated as many 'suspects' as I know (and used to know) in that area. Mr. C., who used to have a Belgian colleague named Mr. B, is it YOU? If not, then I honestly don't know and I apologise for my shoddy memory.

Marco: I'll deal with you over e-mail, ye cheeky bastard!

Marco said:

You don't have to thank me. Through the miracle of modern technology I managed to track your secret admirer/stalker down:
http://i35.beon.ru/62/69/36962/39/1535939/0.jpeg

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

OH MY WORD!!!!! How on EARTH did you find all that info?!?!? Are you sure it's not illegal? Can one really find so much detail about someone on the Internet?!? That is SCARY. THANK you though for solving the mystery! It's been eating at me! And he just wouldn't give up his identity, despite all my guesses! I should've KNOWN it was that SpongeBob SquarePants!!! :-)

Happy Birthday Person, with my last guess I have truly depleted everyone I knew in that area. I give up.

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
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comments
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: OH MY WORD!!!!! How on EARTH did you find all that info?!?!? Are you sure it's not illegal? Can one ... [go]
  • Marco : You don't have to thank me. Through the miracle of modern technology I managed to track your secret ... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Happy birthday Person: I'm too curious to let it go. I've eliminated as many 'suspects' as I know (a... [go]
  • Marco : Not to be a spoil sport, but I think the 'mystery man' game is reaching snore-factoring 10 at warp s... [go]
  • Belated Happy Birthday : Ms. Red, I am definitely not a chick and while I am not a rocket scientist, I used to work down th... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Happy Birthday Person: So, was I right in guessing your identity the second time around? I'm really ... [go]
  • Marco : You, my dear, are like one of those rare (red) wines. Less than 10 percent of all wines produced h... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Marco: Sorry for only responding now. For once I have an excuse other than laziness. I've taken ill!... [go]
  • Marco : Oh, and for our coffee date, I will bring along my home made 'Banoffee pie' - it's divine even if I ... [go]
  • Marco : Hello my hart se middelpunt Sounds like you made the poor guy's liver quiver! "He shyly brushed h... [go]
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