Another Kind of Noise
Living on a council estate (sorry, ex local authority estate, to give it its proper standing in estate agent parlance) inures you to a lot. If you were to retain the carefully nurtured middle class sensibilities of leafy suburbia, you’d never get a night’s sleep. You have to get sleep where you can, just like a soldier at the front. Once the noise stays below a particular level, you can retreat into peaceful slumber. Once that threshold is crossed, though, it’s like being jarred awake.
It was the roar that woke me, the roar of a human voice. On Saturday 20th January, 2007, I woke up in the darkness to this roar. What immediately struck me was that this was no ordinary roar: I’ve heard enough of those. This one was different: it was just so loud. Maybe I should say they were loud because there was a succession of roars: I was must have been woken by an early salvo. Right below my 3rd floor bedroom window, left open for ventilation, there was a whole lot of roaring going on. Now, from that very bedroom and that very bed, I’ve heard all sorts of displaced noises over the years, some good, some bad and some where the jury is still out. You develop a feel or should I say, an ear. The roars below just seemed harmless, apart from being very loud – and waking me up. It sounded like there were two guys messing around on their way back from the bar (I’d figured it was about 1:30). Maybe one had pushed another into a puddle and the newly wet was making an exaggerated song and dance of it – the reciprocal of the exaggerated extra loud laugh so everyone has to know that you’re having a really good time. That seemed the most likely explanation: I just hoped these inconsiderate hooligans would leave me in peace, like now. The roars slowly went up the hill, whereupon they faded out and I faded back into sleep. I didn’t realise at the time that I was actually hearing someone die!
I did realise it the following morning when I went out to find the place crawling with cops: I was questioned three times and I had no alibi either but I can’t have fitted the appropriate profile, so I wasn’t framed. Gradually, over the course of the day, the pieces came together. For a start my estimate of 1:30 was wildly out. It was actually closer to 6:30 though there was no difference in the darkness. It was all night-time. My estimate of the amount of people was out too – or two! Actually, there had been only one person below my window, but he was making enough noise for ten. I soon found out why the roars had faded out: the victim had got as far as the next block of flats where he could roar no more, a tent now marking the spot where his corpse was discovered by a passer-by.
The incident actually began on an adjacent estate, not on ours, as had been erroneously reported. It was the same, sad, old story: a row over drugs had escalated into a stabbing. A man from Chad who lived in the flat above the action, told me the row (he must have been awoken too) reminded him of the war in his own country such was its violence. The mortally wounded 29 year old victim, probably realising the end was near, now tried to get back to his family’s flat in the adjacent block to mine, and fell for the last time on the pavement outside, just short of his mother’s arms.
Bouquets of flowers soon marked the spot. One bore the poignant message “You promised you would never leave me but now you have”. Another life had ended before its time.
Another Kind of Noise r1 © Stephen Kearney January 2016