Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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NOVEMBER 18, 2012 11:28AM

Last quiet night on the boulevard

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Lying down, I wonder, Where is the usual stream of cars?  No trucks pause below the window, their hydraulics puffing and groaning at the stoplight.  There’s no misbegotten youth outside, yelling to each other, laughing, sometimes fighting.  It’s as if, tonight, they’ve taken a vow of silence.  No music from passing car radios or cell phones bursts into our apartment.

Sleep is like a velvet coverlet that we curl inside. Traffic doesn't start up at sunless autumn dawn. There is no beep-beep-beep of trucks backing up.  We continue our dreams. No sound, floating on a silent cloud.

Our alarm clock going off, seems to be the only noise in the world.  Outside, it’s still dark, and dark and still.  Strangely, there’s no wind-like sound of cars driving past, no rumble of delivery trucks or street sweepers, or piercing sirens repeating their urgency over and over again to a thousand households.  The quiet is the kind that follows snowfall in the countryside.

It’s so hard to leave the warm bed and the cushioned, soundless world around it.  But we say "Good morning", and make up our minds to move. Our feet meet the floor with soft thuds.  The cat calls out a short, sharp “Mrow” for breakfast.  You turn on the radio.  For once, we’re the ones putting sound into the dark world.

The following evening, the cars return, and the backing-up trucks, and the warning “Clang, clang, clang” of the buses.  Voices call out from across sidewalks, our neighbors decide to have a late night music session.  

Velvet sleep dissolves to cotton.  

I think, maybe, that that inexplicable quiet night was the last one the boulevard will ever know.

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Hmmm...such mystery. I wonder what caused that temporary quiet.
We have days when there aren't any bird sounds. Not so much of a plus as your better-than-a-dream experience, but mysterious nonetheless.
Was it a closed street?
I have not slept in weeks. I envy you.
Eva - I know, right? I still have no idea (it happened last Wednesday night), but it was such a wonderful thing!

Stacey - That is mysterious. I feel like no bird sounds would be sort of sinister and freak me out. It's kind of reassuring to hear from you that this does happen, and that the world goes on. Here, we only have loud-mouthed crows, and occasionally cooing pigeons, but their noise makes me feel happy.

Linda - Haha - I hadn't thought of that very practical explanation! It could be, but I'm not sure. If they did close the road, I wish they'd do it more often! In more serious news, I am so sorry you haven't been able to sleep! I know what that's like, and very much hope that you'll get some well-needed, restorative shut-eye, soon.
I used to love it when it snowed at my old apartment. We lived by a bridge and we'd lose the traffic sounds of cars and trucks rumbling over the bridge. That's how I could tell it had snowed. Maybe it was a saint's day you overlooked?
Something lovely ... about the mystery ... here ...
An appropriately soothing tone to this ode to sleep. Enjoyed it very much.
Your writing is as peaceful as the quiet night outside your window.
I was thinking new double-pane windows... and what a lovely way to describe it. But apparently just a fluke, although still lovely.
nilesite - That sounds lovely. I'm always amazed by how snow and silence often seem to go hand in hand. As for it being a saint's day...According to my French calendar (many French calendars have the saints' days on them, since some French people celebrate their saintly namesake's day), it was Saint Sidoine's day. According to a quick bit of research, Saint Sidoine, also known as Saint Saëns, who lived in the late 7th century AD, was an Irish or Scotsman who was kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery. He was purchased by Norman monks, who would buy slaves and set them free. He later became a religious figure. Very interesting...not sure about the quiet connection though....

anna1liese - Thank you. I very much agree, it was this beautiful mystery.

Seth - Thank you. It was such a great night of sleep....

Stim - Thanks and I'm so glad I was able to convey at least a little bit of what I experienced that wonderful night.

jlsathre - Weird coincidence indeed! We have double-paned windows, but they don't help much. When we have to get new windows, I think we should go for triple-paned or higher. The other problem is, because there's no air conditioning in most French apartments (including ours), windows are often open, unlike in New York, for example, where it's super-noisy, but you can usually keep your windows closed. Not that we need AC now, but in general, we spend a lot of the year with the window cracked open. Good luck with buying your windows - I hope they'll provide the quiet you need!
lovely! Just that...she said as she longed to snuggle beneath warm covers! xo