I spent last month in Santa Fe, a place I had never been but have since listened to a song about so many times.
Santa Fe is drier than Amsterdam, so much drier that every part of me always seemed to itch and it felt like someone had gone at my eyes with a vegetable peeler. Also, my hair looked amazing.
There are cities that grow on you, and cities you fall in love with right away, and then there are cities you fall so hard for that you end up singing a song about that city the entire time you’re there. Dreams come true, yes they do, they may laugh, I don’t care, save my place, I’ll be there, in S-aaaa-n-ta Fe.
In Santa Fe every day is sunny, and it would make a great setting for a low-budget video game because none of the trees are very leafy and there are no NPCs. When the sun goes down it gets pitch dark and freezing cold faster than you can type “Newsies Santa Fe Playlist” into Spotify. At night the sky is blacker and clearer than any camping trip I’ve been on, and the sky is so full of stars that sometimes I worried my vegetable-peeled eyes were causing my vision to glitter.
There wasn’t an apartment or anything above me where I was staying, but every night the roof started making a sound like a buffalo was slowly pushing a washing machine across it. My rental host said it’s normal, just the sound flat roofs make when the temperature changes.
“Mine does it too!” They told me in a message, exclamation point included.
I thought of that exclamation point as I walked around my Santa Fe video game, and as I looked at other flat-roofed houses, and when I very occasionally saw people coming in or out of them. “Mine does it too!” I imagined each of them saying, their exclamation points capturing the sheer wonder of it all.
Is the sound of a buffalo pushing a large appliance across your ceiling a sound you get used to, the way New Yorkers don’t hear car horns and Amsterdammers don’t hear frat parties? It is – after just a few nights, I stopped noticing.
That’s when the new sound came.
The new sound was reminiscent of a toddler jogging clumsily across the roof, followed by a few seconds of loud tapping and scratching, and then back to the footsteps. I bought a bathrobe at a thrift store (don’t judge) my first day in Santa Fe and, excited for a chance to use it, I put it on and went outside to get a closer look at these toddlers. But it turned out the roof was shaped sort of like a pie tin, with edges that made it impossible to see the source of the sound.
I guessed and hoped that it was raccoons, but I wasn’t sure if there were raccoons in SANTA FE! Are you there! Do you swear you won’t forget me? (Really everything about Santa Fe sounds like a song if you listen to that song often enough.)
When I texted my friend Jessica, who lives in Santa Fe, she suggested that maybe the thing making the sound wasn’t a family of raccoons, but a giant insect native to New Mexico called “Children of the Earth.”
“Look them up!” She said.
My grandmother asks lots of detailed questions I never see coming, and last month when I told her that I had a friend in Santa Fe she asked “Is she a very close friend? How close are you?” At the time the question seemed odd, but now I know the answer: not quite close enough for Jess to know that photos of a toddler-sized insect crawling around my roof are the last thing I am going to look up.
I would sooner scratch my own eyeballs with a vegetable peeler.