The sound started almost right away.

Faint, very faint, just a whine in the air from a few miles away. Very familiar too, living in the city. You hear it all the time. I didn't give it a thought.

It was cold, at first. Deep cold, heavy, cold like damp, but not, a temperature that confuses the skin. Like clothes lined-dried in winter. You slip into your denim jeans regardless--figure the heat from your body will dry them the rest of the way, go out, walk around, squirm, tug, put your hands in your pockets to test the progress, rub your thighs to warm them up. Friction.

My jeans were not entirely dry when I put them on this morning; I don't think they are now. I cannot reach my pockets.

Two dozen pairs of feet in my field of vision. Boots, sneakers, loafers, a range of designers, styles, prices. Those complicated Nikes with the spring-heels, I've always wondered if they really felt any different than just shoes, but never had the nerve to try on a set; I'm too short, I don't exercise. My lifestyle must be consistent with my footwear, not the other way around. I like those Kenneth Coles, they look like a cross between wing-tips and bowling shoes. I've seen them in ads on the subway. That woman has nice legs.

They've all come out to watch. Rich and poor, shoulder-to-shoulder. What a way to break down the class barrier! But I was never really a Marxist.

Not everyone is stopping. Behind the treeline, there's intermittent movement. The pause, turn, turn back, move away. That would have been me. Background actor, an extra with a walk-through in the last scene. Man #4.

Now I'm the star.

It's getting colder.

"What happened? Did you see?" Someone said, one of the women, I think, her voice was in its forties.


"I don't know."

"I missed it."

"His shit is fucked up."

Too many voices now. I want to hear an explanation; I hadn't seen it either, am curious to know what happened myself. But it becomes a noise, a cacophany. Cacophany was on my GRE test.

There's something under it--a distinguishable sound, a pitch cutting through the human clutter, gaining intensity, getting closer. Ah. It's coming... Below black pants, black shoes appear, their heels facing me, smooth round heels against the field of laces and buckles, brass zippers and velcro flaps. The sound's getting louder and louder. I'd heard it before, though. One hears it all the time. It comes, then goes, makes a reflection of itself, if you're the mirror and can look both ways, out at what's coming and into yourself. Bad analogy. Simile or metaphor? Metaphor, remember, before the GREs, the SATs; before them, progress tests, then aptitude tests, then math quizzes, spelling bees, matching colors, putting the right shaped block in the right shaped hole. All those examinations suddenly becoming clearer; wait, they'll haze out again, dissipate into a universe of memory. The noise will go away. It always does.

I definitely think my pants are wet. They've moistened the bottom of my shirt--I don't usually tuck in my shirt--I can feel the fibers expanding with...dampness, clinging to me, crawling up my spine, shocking cold, you would not think it could be this cold, but warm air rises, doesn't it? Better to be standing. Definitely better to be standing, looking on. Not being looked upon. I can't see their eyes, it makes me nervous. I'm getting very nervous, and no one seems to want to touch me.

I would rather they would touch me.

It's getting hard to hear them. I can't really hear them, but I sense they must be speaking. The noise has gotten very close now. It's ringing in my ears, driving itself into my brain. I can't see the source yet either. It's approaching me from behind, I guess. I wish I could see it coming. I would feel better if I could see it coming.

It comes then goes. Always comes then goes, this familiar sound; the waves compress upon approach, build at a speed relative to the conducting medium. Air, I guess. Just air. Oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, some other other stuff too. Would it take longer to get here in Alaska? Or Los Angeles? Not just air. Time, too. Time is involved, it comes through time. Distance equals rate times time. It's more complicated than that, though. Than DiRT. I remembered it as dirt. Lots of dirt now, I think I must have swallowed some; I'm coughing.

All the feet are starting to back away. The black shoes are pushing them away. The noise is at a climax now. It's terrible. I've never heard it this loud for this long. I can't hear anything else, there's nothing else, I can't even see, the sound's so overwhelming. I can't get away from it, no matter how I try to twist away. So loud and clear.

And familiar. Familiar, on top and underneath. It's--I think it's compressing my chest. I recognize this. From before the city, I recognize--what is that I can hear? I've heard it before, faintly...faintly, a whine in the air from years and years away...I know I've heard it before, getting louder, getting closer.

The sound started right away.

It will go away from all those shoes. The source will move away from them. The sound will diminish, then come back, crescendo, decrescendo. Crescendo at the last. Break the set. Defy expectation. I had a pair of shoes. I think I was knocked out of them. I can see one. It's untied. No matter.

It's quiet now, and dry.