Federico’s eighth birthday party began at 10 pm and ended three hours later with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, sung in English, at first by Federico alone, then accompanied by a Mariachi band, then with everyone. They did the “Are you one, are you two” and when they got to eight, he broke out in a loud Si! and everyone sang some more.
I don’t know Federico, or anyone who attended the party, but I heard the entire celebration through my bedroom window, blasting in from a few buildings away.
When the party finally ended my annoyance shifted back to the car alarms which were going off every six minutes, triggered by passing motorcycles. After ten nights of this I had memorized the 45 second sequence of beeps, chirps, squeals, honks, whistles, and more chirps, all designed by scientists to maximize annoyance. Well done scientists, well done.
I had also memorized the car with the most sensitive alarm, a white Suzuki, which went off close to ten times an hour. I would get excited when I saw it parked far down the street, and sad when it was just beneath my window. It was mostly just beneath my window.
The small gaps of silence between the alarms were not wasted though. Dogs, sometime fighting, sometimes warning, sometimes simply excited, took their chance to be heard. Or men filled with drink acting like dogs.
Nobody else on the block, or in my building, in the Breña neighborhood of Lima seemed to mind any of the noise. Not the constant car alarms, dogs, drunks, revving engines, or parties (another evening, a garage was turned into a reggaetone dance hall, which eventually brought the police, who joined in, rather than stop it).