In the middle of the night, my husband's snores sometimes sound like a cellphone vibrating. Other times, they sound like waves crashing on a rocky shore, or a minor chord being played a little tentatively on a church organ, one low note mixed with two wheezier, higher notes. Last night, they sounded like the carriage return on a typewriter, the heavy, industrial kind that's electric, but still gives a kick when the carriage swings to the left side of the machine with a scratchy clatter.
I loved to listen to that sound when I visited my mother's office as a kid. Listening to her type 120 words a minute on an IBM Selectric felt like an odd, percussive form of meditation. I would lean way back in the swivel chair in her office and marvel at that sound of no-nonsense efficiency and capability in action. She'd been a housewife since she married my dad, who was a professor. But after 15 not-so-happy years together, she'd finally divorced him. Now she had three kids to feed, with no alimony, and very little child support. Good thing she aced her typing class in high school.
Occasionally my mom would be interrupted by her boss, an older professor who wore tweedy, English caps and argyle sweaters and pants that might best be described as jodhpurs. He would wander in with an unfocused look on his face and he'd ask where she put some papers he needed to send off. She'd stop and give him a strained smile that told me she'd taken care of these things days ago. The professor had giant shelves full of bound journal-volumes in his office. Every few months, my mother would send away the flimsy-looking journals to the binder, and they'd return covered in leather, with gold lettering on the side. “Why does he do that?” I asked. “I don't know,” she answered.