Propped up in the bed holding the book, I must have been so chained down to the story that when the fly came barreling straight past my left ear, I nearly yelled. It was early morning, the kind of early morning that really belongs to the late evening before, and I was sucking the words off every page. I had become so silent that I was more startled by the fact that a fly could buzz past me than I was by the fly itself.
I laughed at my overreaction, and went immediately back into the book. Of course, thirty seconds later, the same fly and the same startled overreaction. Four times this happened. Every time, I was caught completely unaware.
I stretched out on an empty bench, looking at the great mountain as my park backdrop, thinking for just a moment about the perfect Sunday afternoonishness of it all, and I started to read. Silence.
But the silence was different this time. It was loud.
The winds were so strong that I could hear them crashing into my ears. That was the foreground noise, and the people and kids playing, laughing and running were the background noise. I could hear all kinds of things, and yet nothing at all. My mind had quieted completely. It was a perfectly loud, Sunday-afternoon kind of silence.
I think of times when I knew a horrible conversation of conflict was about to happen, or a horrible event was unfolding, and everything––whether there was other audible noise or not didn’t matter––everything became so silent.
Except for my heartbeat.
My body became cavernous and my heartbeat became connected to a loudspeaker that only I could hear. It’s the kind of silence I would try to turn down the volume on. My dry swallows become unbearably hearable.
And then, just after those conversations start, a new silence comes and muddles out the heartbeat and swallowing silence. A certain kind of peace arrives, a clarity around the words being spoken, the truth of the people speaking the words. From the loud-heartbeat-silence I begin to hear the truth, and things quiet down.
The conversation has started: I can see where it will end.
The car is spinning off the road: I can tell I’ve lost all control.
A new kind of silence emerges.
A kind of chosen silence.
A kind of you-don’t-have-to-understand-me silence.
A kind of this-is-where-I-am silence.
This is who I am.
This is who you are.
This is where we are.
This is where we are not.
A kind of this-is-what-this-is silence.