There is one particular sound that, when I hear it, immediately transports me back to past me’s from decades ago.
The sound is a very urban sound, in the sense that the origin of the sound is a contraption that only can be found in cities that grew to a certain size, and saw it fit to install this piece of infrastructure. While the sound does happen throughout the day, it hits me the most when I’m in bed at 1am in the morning, the apartment and the city is quiet, and I’m trying to fall asleep.
In my drifting consciousness, if this gentle urban sound penetrates the block, the walls, and somehow makes it into my ears, my mind conflates present with past, and I could be lying half-asleep in any of the cities that I’ve ever lived in.
This sound is the gentle rumble and squeak of a tram.
It has a round and resonant vibration, with a slight hollow echo from bouncing off buildings before arriving in my ears.
I feel I could be sleeplessly lying in my bed in Amsterdam, as a young undergrad student living what I knew was going to be some of the best years of my life in an amazing city and country.
Or I could be back in Oslo, a teen in a bunk bed below my sleeping brother, the late subway trains in the distance rumbling their way along the steep hillside one last time for the day.
I am so delighted that I currently live in a place in Toronto where I can hear this sound. It brings me indescribable longing and comfort, and connection to my past self.
I think in Portuguese this sensation is called saudade.