The other night I lay awake in bed later than usual, listening to the noises of the house. Through the winter I had the occasional problem with mice, so I am fairly accustomed to hearing them in the walls. Then my upstairs neighbour has a cat, so I hear it moving around and occasionally miaowing. I also hear my neighbour moving around, though he’s significantly quieter on his feet than the previous upstairs tenant.
Then there are all the other noises: the house creaking, settling down for the evening. I’ve never been totally sure why this happens, though I suppose it has to do with nighttime changes in temperature. The walls flex, creak, make the occasional odder noise. The heating is by hot water, and they make noises as the pipes cool down. Pops and bangs and the occasional rattling hiss. The furnace is directly below my bed, so I hear it go on and off. Sometimes I can hear laundry, though that’s further away in the basement, and usually no one does it late at night.
Outside noises: cars mostly, sometimes people walking by (more of that as the summer goes on, I expect), occasionally dogs barking or the neighbourhood outdoor cats making noises. I’ve only heard caterwauling a few times, thankfully. Occasional sirens from the main roads two blocks down or two blocks over.
The wind, and, my favourite, the rain.
I get startled by unexpected noises, especially in a new house by myself. You need time to get accustomed to them, to what is the noise of the house settling or the pipes cooling and what might be someone trying to get in. (When I first moved here there were a number of nights where I prowled around the house with a frying pan in my hand, just in case.) No one ever has tried to get in anywhere I’ve actually lived, and I’m not sure what I’d actually do if they did so — wail them with the frying pan, I guess.
I like there being other tenants, and pets, so I can account for the mystery noises. That’s the cat, I say. (Or the dog, at my parents’.) When I lived in Toronto for a time the people above me would make baffling noises — I never did figure out what they were — dropping a ball on a hard surface for their cat, I think it must have been. (Sometimes the noises are quite identifiable; they make me smile, too.)
If ever I live completely alone in a building, I shall get a dog immediately. They can make worrisome noises in their own way — my parents had a dog once that would eat raw potatoes before the fireplace, a noise that sounds most peculiar indeed when one is lying in bed, alone, in the basement, in a house that’s usually not empty. But comfort, too, a different sort of comfort than people usually talk about with their pets, I know, but comfort nonetheless, for those noises off.