This morning, as I walk to work, I see a man in the middle of the street. In the middle of a lane. I hear a siren coming this way. He plants his feet wide, bending his knees like he's going to go into a crouch. I watch him, curious.
At work there's a plate by the elevator with instructions in case of a fire. It tells me:
Alarm will sound as a whooping horn.
A sign inside the elevator informs me that the alarm will be tested tomorrow morning at 7 am. It will be very loud, it says.
The alarm is very loud. Last week it rattled me at my desk. We filed outside like schoolkids, down the metal and cement stairway and into the parking lot. We stood around and looked at each other while the building screamed.
In my new sixth floor loft, I can't hear much noise from the street. I do hear sirens; after a while they become a sort of backdrop. Tonight I hear protesters moving down Market toward City Hall. I step out on to the fire escape to watch them go by, escorted by police cars and vans and their flashing lights.
I can also hear church bells from my window.
The man in the middle of the street emerges from his crouch as the siren approaches. He's young and beautiful. He stretches one long arm out front of his body, palm up. He's pulling the ambulance toward him. Scooping out into the air with both arms now, and now his mouth opens, the siren is inside me and inside him; I see but don't hear his laugh as it rocks by, tossing his hair back in its wake, his eyes are open and both arms are in the air and he's laughing like he's found the secret of joy.