My ears wake before daylight, and I ease into consciousness beneath the down comforter. The house is swollen with humming clicks and whirs, compressors and fans. When the orchid shelf LEDs snap into life a couple of rooms away, I open my eyes.
Outside, between the swish of wet tires, I hear only a sliver of insects hissing lazily in the cool of morning. A jet soars into the soundscape, then trails off. It is followed by a far-off rooster, the plop of water sliding from our metal roof, and finally, the laugh of a red-bellied woodpecker.
We hear the outside world from inside our mothers’ wombs, while sleeping, and after all other senses have lost their grip, we hear from our deathbeds.
I call Bob, who has woken to ants on the seventh floor of a Hampton Inn somewhere west of here. I describe my sounds and imagine him straining to hear what I hear from so far away. I promise myself that he will soon join me in idle listening. He reads me the weather forecast and solves the Wordle in two tries, beating the bot. And he tells me he will retire in thirty-three weeks, just in time for my sixty-ninth birthday.