A story about home’s hum.
Below is an essay titled “Home Is Where the Hum Is,” a finalist in Design*Sponge’s essay contest on the theme of “home.” You can see it on the Design*Sponge site here. … My upstairs apartment neighbor vacuums only at sunrise. I sometimes wake to the soft hum passing across the floor over my head. I’m not sure who she is, nor even that she’s female, but I envision her with tired hands like leather laced with wrinkles, wearing a sweet and sleepy sort of smile. Behind my shut eyes, I see her shuffling in the same slippers she’s kept for years, embroidered with tiny roses across the toes, as she tangles the thick cord of the vacuum around her ankles. If it’s not the vacuum, it’s the shower, and I hear the water rushing gently through the pipes in the walls. I imagine those slippers waiting just outside her bathroom door, still warm, and her teapot steaming on the stove. I stand slowly from my twin-sized bed and draw up my sheets, tucking them into the sides of the mattress and fluffing my pillows, while above me, there’s that gentle purr of solidarity in the shared ritual of a fresh start. I make my breakfast to the shrill of the next-door toddler’s tantrums. I flip my eggs while she flips furniture, sending board games and books flying helter-skelter into the walls. She stomps, and the floors shake, and the butter bubbles frothier around the edges of my pan. By the time I’m sitting at my Ikea dining table, sipping coffee, her mom or dad has managed to wrangle her unwillingly out the door. “I don’t want to go,” she shrieks. “No!” I think about human inertia while I stare into my mug, willing the billowing swirl of almond milk to translate into some sort of motivational message. I do my novice yoga routine in my kitchen-cum-living room with the window wide open, listening to a distant jackhammer (somewhere, someone is always constructing something) and a mob of kids entering the school across the street. They sob their goodbyes to their mothers and squeal their hellos to each other as I rest in my own Child’s Pose on my hardwood floor. In the summer, the children peter out of their apartments more slowly, meeting instead at the small park down the block where they intertwine arms and legs on the jungle…
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