Every voice was a companion. Some mornings I called the time and temperature man a dozen times just to see if anything had changed. Most afternoons I called the school homework line, an answering machine service that allowed me to leave messages for my seventh grade teacher. I confessed that she was my favorite. I sang songs I had written for her. I told her my parents had separated or gotten back together and we were moving again. The TV was never not on. My best friend got a karaoke machine, and we locked it in echo mode. We stood on the toilet, ears angled to the ceiling to hear the muffled murmurs from the apartment above. Vampires, I deduced. Who else would shuffle all night? We traded the microphone, deejays of a show that never aired. We recorded all of 1996 that way, one voice behind the other. Even now I can’t stand quiet. I wake up to the radio, to the cats meowing as you mumble a sleepy good morning. You fall back into silence, but I carry the public radio voice of the world in my work pants pocket. The answering machines don't exist anymore, but I can hear them -- the time, the temperature, my seventh grade teacher's "hello" -- the soundtracks that carried me from there to here, echoing still.