It was a little transistor radio. The old kind that took the nine volt battery. Remember touching them to your tongue? Anyway, this little radio sat within arm’s reach of the bed. It only received AM signals but this was back when you could still hear music on AM radio. Late at night or early in the morning when the atmosphere was just right, it would bring the weather in Chicago, Boston and even Toronto into the small room. He’d listen ever so carefully to the commercials to try to figure out the city he was listening to.
This being the first time the boy had his own bedroom, it was welcome company when lonely and was easy to evict when unwanted. The only type of ear phone that would fit in the output jack was the little one ear piece so the radio was generally kept right next to the pillow at night. Volume low. No LED to light up the dial. Stations were found by sound alone. Still, he sat staring in the darkness out the boxy silhouette out of habit.
The boy’s room was straight down the hallway from the rest of the house. Noise would funnel its way down the hall to the hollow bedroom door that would act as a primitive speaker. His brothers slept upstairs and away from what was going on in the rest of the house. Often there was something going on. Drunken parents entertaining the neighbors punctuated by loud bursts of manly guffaws and feminine cackles. Every ice cube hitting every glass as the drinks kept flowing. These were the nights the radio was on. God forbid the boy had to go to the bathroom because daring to venture out to pee meant he may see or hear something he didn’t want to know about. You know how women can remove their bra without taking their shirts off? Well, when the first time you see it you shouldn’t be twelve and it’s your mom in front of her friends.
Other nights the fighting from the next bedroom would wake him up. New ways to use curse words or the sound of hands smacking flesh would overwhelm the two inch speaker yet the volume always stayed low. Not to drown out the noises but to be something to focus upon. The game of always trying to find something better to listen to kept the boy’s fore finger on the dial, ever so slowly searching for something new. Something that interested him, spoke to him, could keep his mind in one place, any other place, even if only for a few minutes.
The loneliness of those long nights was broken by that little radio and the star light that shone through the window over the bed. The sounds of the world going on around him and knowing that he was not the only one the stars cast their light upon offered him a comfort. Security in knowing that there would be more to life than this little room. It wouldn’t always be like this. One day he’d be grown and out in the world, doing things. At that same moment there were truck drivers listening, night guards and janitors hearing what he heard, couples romantically looking at the stars. There was a life out there waiting for him. Glimpses of an uncertain future came through this funny little radio and let him know everything was going to be OK.