On Silence

I went away and in my absence other things have sprung up. Good things. It’s a new place, but there’s an old silence bothering me.

:: Charles D’Ambrosio, “Seattle, 1974”

I sit on a second-floor promenade, beneath the patterned shade of the pergola that runs lengthwise with the walk, watching people pass along sidewalks below. The sidewalks run at confused angles, with grass and bushes faded yellow between the paths, and the walks converge only once in the middle—a great open and dusty area with newly-planted trees and benches and solar-powered recycle bins.

I am here, I think, because I crave solitude. I am here because I crave silence.

It’s clear to me now, more than I guess it’s ever been, that silence—true silence—could be impossible to find. Even now, those who dot the sidewalks, who pass by with no intention of stopping, no intention of understanding the other bodies on the same walk, no intention to connect, create a muffled conversation that reaches where I sit above. A cricket exerts tremendous effort to scratch out a song, hidden in the cracks of the wall to my right. (Break a leg, buddy.) A church bell rings the hours. A train—a soulful sound from some nameless direction—and far off, the cars, the buses, with their diesel, their gas, their fumes, roar past—the echo of which trembles against the tan brick of this building, amplifying the rumble into some glorious disturbance.

Even now, an effeminate scream, a powerful soundwave from who-knows-how-far, surrounds my senses. And laughter. The laughter an addition, as if to say, I’m in no real danger.

I suppose I don’t ground myself in these moments often, and that’s my own problem. It’s my own fault that I don’t listen for these small sounds. I hear, but I don’t listen. Not with intention.

In searching for purpose, the sounds of everyday silence are as afterthoughts to me.

But then I take a moment to notice the slight whistle of breath as it enters through nostrils and out of pursed lips. A heartbeat pounding in my ears, my chest. The tight creak of bone, the crack of knuckle. All the subtleties of the self.

And then I realize that maybe silence isn’t this empty thing, but rather, something wonderfully whole. A sum of many, many parts.

True silence is thrilling because it’s unattainable. And in that way, silence seduces me.

For now, I’m alone up here. And that’s fine by me.


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