Skip to main content
This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023
8:21 pm

Today was a torment. The beeping started outside my bedroom window at 5AM, or at least that’s when it finally woke me up. In no mood to get out of bed at 5 only to listen to beeping from another room in my apartment, I put on my noise cancelling headphones.

The thing about noise cancelling headphones is that they block out all the noise. Except for the beeping, which is then actually magnified because the headphones successfully block out the rest of the ambient sounds that would otherwise dull the shrillness of the beeping.

So I have to play music, but it can’t be relaxing music like piano or something soft and instrumental, because the beeping just overpowers it. So really, what I have to do if I want any hope at all of going back to sleep is blast something like the Black Eyed Peas. At 5AM. In my skull.

It didn’t improve for the rest of the day. The beeping did not let up for a second, not one. I spent the entire day with my headphones on and something playing loud enough to make a difference, which I figure at some point is just going to make me deaf and I won’t have to worry about the beeping.

But I didn’t come here to complain about beeping. I was just setting the story up, and the story is about my balcony.

It’s not a story, per se, as much as a moment of gratitude and a conscious acknowledgment of something I appreciate and enjoy.

I’m sitting here now, by the glow of the globe lights hung along the railing, with a glass of wine at hand. The beeping has stopped for a few hours and the sounds have diminished to the hum of some crazy person’s air conditioner, the sprinklers in the grass, and the occasional car coming up the driveway.

I wouldn’t call it quiet, exactly, but when you spend 15 hours trying not to hear trucks beeping and crashing, it’s practically a church.

Oh yeah, and the church bells just finished clanging the 8:00 serenade.

It’s my favorite time of night.

When we moved here with a trunk full of whatever we couldn’t live without, which was surprisingly little, we toured a handful of apartments. They were fine. One smelled “used”, another was too congested with multiple buildings lining a sidewalk, another was in a fairly spacious development but way in the back and it also looked kind of worn and the layout was weirdly unappealing.

But when we saw these apartments, we knew we wanted to live here. Of course, at the time I had no idea that I’d be listening to the crashing of whatever they do at the golf course at 4AM but let’s set that aside for now.

When we visited, they showed us a middle unit and it was new and pretty and had a really nice balcony. We were ten seconds away from signing on the dotted line but by a stroke of luck and insistence, we saw an end unit. And the balcony wrapped around two sides of the building and overlooked the then-blissful, currently brain-shattering golf course.

I wanted it.

Since then I’ve spent many hours sitting on the balcony, sometimes alone, sometimes with Ralph, or with Kevin when he visits. Sometimes in a folding chair, sometimes in a hammock-like camping chair, all curled up with a blanket and pillow and usually my laptop and a cup of tea or just as often wine.

Once, I even slept out here. Just to see if I could. The camping chair was pretty good for a while, but then I needed to stretch out so I lay on the floor, which is cement and didn’t work so well, but I spent the whole night. It was pre-beep days, and glorious.

I look forward to warm weather and evenings outside. If I can help it, I’ll spend every one of them out here, enjoying the trees and the late night birds. There is a surprising lack of insect up here at night, as long as you don’t keep the overhead lights on.

I can’t say the same for the daylight hours and insects.

I’ve already talked about wasps in a previous post. They’re the worst, and the most persistent and difficult to deter. I spend summer on the balcony with a bottle of peppermint spray on one side of me and a bottle of soapy water spray on the other.

Peppermint for angering the wasps long enough to leave for fifteen seconds, soapy water to drown the stink bugs.

I typically don’t like killing things. Just because I want to sand a barrel or drink a tea in their world doesn’t mean they have to die. I am kind of the interloper. My presence bothers them not one whit. They will go about their business around me, land on me, fly into me like I’m not even there.

I’m the only one who is bothered by the relationship.

But I draw the line at stink bugs. They’re invasive to begin with and they have no natural predators which is why they proliferate in a explosion of wings and creepy shell bodies every year.

I kill them because if I don’t they will have more stink bug babies and they will continue to swarm my balcony and interrupt every peaceful moment I have. Then they’ll manage to get in the apartment even though I’ve mummified every edge of every window and they’ll get in my bed because of COURSE they will, I mean when you have a whole apartment to work with, isn’t the best place to be under the covers of the bed?

But at night, the icky creepy crawly flying stinging stinking things go away and at most I have a few tiny moths to contend with, which are usually just interested in what I’m writing and crash repeatedly into my laptop screen to see. They don’t bother me.

At night, sheltered behind the two plants I haven’t killed, it feels like my own private oasis above the world.

When we first moved here and for about a year, there was a couple who used to walk by every night. She always wore a pink shirt and he always wore a blue one. Unless he wore a pink shirt and she wore a blue one. Unless on the rare occasion they both wore pink or both wore blue.

I don’t know if they did it on purpose, but evening after evening I’d see these two walking together, and never once, not one single time, did they ever wear a different shirt or a different hue.

They both had the same baby blue shirt and the same baby pink shirt and they wore them with enthusiasm.

I would send pictures to my mother just to prove that I was not making this stuff up.

After Covid, I didn’t see them again. I decided they must have moved.

They were very predictable, these two. They’d emerge from around the building right around 7:00 every night, him in front, her lagging maybe 50 feet behind. He never got any further away and she never got any closer. Occasionally he would stop and wait for her to catch up, but that seemed to matter not one bit because within a minute they were 50 feet apart again, like some invisible string was holding them together and keeping them apart at the same time.

They’d walk one way around the development, then circle around and walk the other way. Maybe it was their version of The Loop. Maybe someone on a balcony somewhere saw Kevin and I walking The Loop and sent pictures to their mother of the two people who always walked one way and then the other, always in the same oversized Brigantine sweatshirt.

The Pink and Blue couple, closer than usual.

I get an excellent snapshot of humanity from up here. I know who has the bulldogs and who has the Labradoodles. I know who’s fighting and who is exercising. I know who can’t stand their job because they’re telling someone into the phone how much they can’t stand their job.

Sometimes I get to see a very happy dog playing in the sprinklers and that’s always good for a smile.

Nobody ever looks up.

I’m one of those people who always looks up. I want to see what furniture everyone has and what kind of plants. I want to know if they’re sitting outside and if so, what they’re doing. I smile and sometimes wave at people from the ground but nobody ever looks up at me. I don’t mind. I just enjoy the show.

I’ve grown things on my balcony and killed things on my balcony. Best thing I grew: pineapple mint. Never ate it, but admired it every time I went out. The hummingbirds liked it too, which was exciting.

A hummingbird enjoying the mint while I enjoyed the hummingbird.

Cardinals like my balcony, but only the females. Mockingbirds dive bomb in front of my balcony. I don’t know what’s up with those birds but every time they do it I look up to see if one of them misses and ends up beak-first in the mulch.

They never do, these maniac birds that have learned to mimic car alarms but fortunately not beeping.

I’ve seen rainbows and lightning storms from my balcony, watched snow fall and rain pour. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can catch the fireworks on the Fourth of July, but only the ones that explode above the treetops. Those are the prettiest ones anyway.

This particular rainbow arced over the entire building. It was quite spectacular.

On summer evenings, the sun sets so that for about an hour it slices right across the balcony and into your eyeballs if you happen to be sitting there. It bakes you and blinds you, so one year we bought curtains. A lot of people have curtains on their balconies, so we figured how hard could it be?

We got a tension rod and hung it between the posts. In the next gust, it blew down. We hung it again, tighter. It still blew down. We repeated the process a few times until one particularly strong storm when we decided to simply take it down rather than risk murdering someone when it flew off and speared someone below.

We unscrewed it and slid off the curtains. Inside the folds they were covered with stink bugs.

I’ve moved on from wine and poured myself some rye. It’s a gorgeous evening, and my newly undead mint plant is looking rather spry. The beeping will start again at 5AM but for now Ralph and I are enjoying some peaceful time outside, listening to the crickets and unwinding.

It’s my favorite time of day, and my favorite place to be. I’ve paid this balcony sufficient homage so now I’m going to gaze out over the dark lawn, where the sand pit of the golf course is now invisible, and enjoy.

Photo: a few glowing globe lights on the balcony railing, with the sand pit golf course in the background. One day I imagine they’ll be done with the reconstruction and some semblance of peace will return to the land.