The soundscape of Sinagra effortlessly comes inside my home through the window. Since my house, like most others here, has precious little space between it and the street or even the neighbours homes. Each house leans up against the next; the front door opens onto the road, which is now too narrow to accommodate cars. Only the occasional motorino speeds by, but not these days, as several houses in the historic centre are being renovated, and the scaffolding blocks the paved road. We are mostly free of traffic sounds, yet you can hear the sound of people from inside my house.
In the late morning, music is playing loudly, and a young girl is singing along, repeating the chorus repeatedly.
I hear the sounds of workers renovating a nearby home, the sound of the steel sparks created by metal cutters, which are as rasping as the jagged edges they leave behind.
During the summer holidays, the sound of the local brass band blends with whatever music I’m playing on my stereo, forming strange hybrids of opera, brass, folk and rock.
During the first crisp winter rains, the thick droplets explode on the thin perplex that covers my neighbour’s balcony as the cooing pigeons take cover in their hidden nests.
I listen for the loud, high-pitched humming of the postman’s motorcycle as he weaves his way through the small side streets and alleyways. I hear him stopping, starting, turning and revving the small motor as he delivers the mail. He slips letters through the outside shutters of my lounge room window; they are caught in the space between the external screens and the glass of the windows.
We need to get a letterbox, as I always find my mail either dusty, covered in cobwebs, wet or hidden in nooks and strange places. We even find electricity bills tucked under the windscreen wipers of our car as our postman is rather lazy and knows my husband’s car.
My husband has his office downstairs, and I hear people ringing the doorbell; their harsh voices make their way to my ears.
There are so many loud booming voices in Sicily as if their volume has never been controlled, or no one has ever taught them to regulate their volume. So their undisciplined voices are as bold as their personalities.
Often women have booming male voices, perhaps caused by too much yelling. One lady I hear has a voice as big and sprawling as the mountains.
Her daughter hilariously enough has the same energy as her mother’s voice. But the daughter seems to be stuck at a higher altitude; she sounds like a cross between Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop.
I often sit to read, opening the window while keeping the shutters closed for privacy.
I’m distracted by the chimes of the church bell, which announces vespers or rings the death knells for a funeral.
The medieval clock tower marks the time; I count each beat on my fingers, easily missing the first chime carelessly, losing an hour of my life.
In front of my house, there is a small chapel used by the church for catechism classes. It is often filled with hyperactive school children or elderly female pensioners saying the rosary.
Today a gaggle of older women are gathered to dedicate their August afternoons to the Virgin Mary. Their warbling voices drone out the rosary with an arrogant persistence. I make out individual words of the Hail Mary, their voices making the prayers sound like one long chant. It echoes clearly back to me: ‘Ave Maria piena di grazie … il signore è con te … tu sei benedetta … pane quotadidiano … liberaci … tentazione … male … AMEN.’
At night, after I close everything, climb into bed, I leave the shutters ajar for a bit of air; the sounds find their way to me again.
As I lie half-asleep, Sinagra’s nighttime echoes whisper in my ears. The old buildings rest themselves in the stillness, their age and dust giving the silence an ancient quality.
The revs often break this tranquillity of a scooter that recklessly speeds down the empty street at one a.m. It is a sound that cuts through the Sandman and blows away the sleep which had possessed me.
I can’t make anything out as I stare into the dimness of the early morning.
There is nothing to see in the shadows; I turn over, close my eyes, and will the daybreak come.