the loudest fan in the world
The night before his thirtieth birthday Evan had a dream. When he woke up, instead of jumping out of bed bristling with vim and vigor and starting has day as he typically did, he just laid staring at the ceiling.
In his dream he was walking along a beach when he came upon a massive shark. It was beached and seemingly posed no threat, yet the sheer size of it made his heart race. His heart raced even more when he realized the shark was still alive. He couldn’t tell if its black eyes were focused on him, but the shark’s mouth was opening and closing slowly.
Offshore he saw the fin of another large shark swimming back and forth in the calm waters. It was impossible to tell for sure, but he sensed that it was concerned about its shark compatriot.
Eventually his attention was drawn to the shark’s mouth and the seemingly endless rows of glistening teeth. In one of the back rows he saw something sticking out. Tiny and yet his entire attention was focused on it. He remembered the story about the lion and the mouse. The one where the lion had a thorn in its paw that it couldn’t remove and the brave mouse removed it for the lion.
He stood on the beach and wondered if he was supposed to remove the object. The object that seemed too small to be of any concern to such an enormous creature. It almost looked like a popcorn kernel.
Evan was familiar with the problems associated with a piece of popcorn getting stuck between his tooth and gums. Sometimes it would be days before it came to his attention, whether it be from inflammation or a foul taste, and then he would have to dig it out before it got worse.
It occurred to him, standing on the beach, that memories can be like popcorn kernels. An odd thought when staring at a beached shark, but there it is. That’s the thought that popped into his head.
The dream ended when he called the shark Jay. “Take care Jay” and he was awake.
He was going to stay in bed until he figured out who Jay was.
“Who the fuck is Jay?” he asked himself a number of times.
Finally he remembered.
Jay was the popular kid in middle school. As big a prick as a kid can be in middle school, but very popular. Evan was not a popular kid in middle school. This was made crystal clear some years later when, after his family picked up and moved a few states away, he returned to visit some old friends. When I say “old friends” I mean his parents visited some old friends.
He visited Jay.
Or tried to.
Instead of arranging to spend the night with his former best friend Dave Mickelwright, he asked his mom to have him stay with his “old friend” Jay. Which she did.
When he was dropped off at Jay’s house Jay was not home. His mother made some apology or other and he spent the evening with Jay’s little brother, whom he’d never met but quickly realized was still much cooler than he would ever be.
When it was time to go to sleep Evan slept on the floor in the little brother’s room. As soon as they walked in the little brother switched on the fan and Evan was treated to the loudest fan he’d ever heard. It sounded as if it was 194 decibels. 194 decibels is the loudest sound can be. It has a pressure deviation of 101.325 kPa, which is ambient pressure at sea level and 0 degrees C. Thus, the sound waves are creating vacuums between themselves, and no higher amplitude is possible.
It was a very loud fan.
So loud that he never slept a wink the entire night. He kept waiting for Jay to arrive home, which he never did. Apparently he was sleeping elsewhere that night.
In the morning he thanked Jay’s mom and little brother and was picked up by his parents to start their long drive home. During that drive he had plenty to time to mull things over. About half way, near Rockford, Illinois, he realized that he couldn’t be mad at Jay. The real villain was Jay’s mom.
Who let’s their son ditch an “old friend” that she herself had scheduled for a sleepover? It became obvious as he looked out the window at the passing scenery that Jay’s mom was a monster.
And that was the last he thought about it… until the night before his thirtieth birthday.
So he lay in bed and stared at the ceiling and thought about Dave Mickelwright. About the time that Dave was riding his ATV and Evan wondered if he could hit him with his BB gun. So he tried and lo and behold he did. Knocked Dave right off of it and he must have been doing 30 mph at the time. And Dave got up and wiped himself off and never told anyone.
He thought about if memories are really like having a kernel of popcorn stuck between your teeth.
About an hour of introspection he realized that maybe, just maybe, he’d exaggerated the loudness of the fan.