An acquaintance observed, before I left the Land of the Living and departed for the Outpost, and during an exchange in which I articulated faint, nagging worries about impending, crushing isolation, ‘Oh but just think of all the time you’ll have to write!’.
Time. Yes. I have a lot of that. Sometimes my shoulders ache from the weight of it. I want to be able to say, ‘God, I’m rushed off my feet, no time for anything’. But that would be a lie. Time lies heavy in my hands; I have gathered armfuls of it since I got here and sometimes I sag beneath its load.
But time to write? Ah, time isn’t the only essential ingredient to conjuring words. You need inspiration. Integration. Conversation.
The silence is deafening.
Except, of course, that nothing is ever so quiet you could hear a pin drop (what would that sound like, I wonder, a pin falling stealthily to the floor?).
I hear the pantechnicon roar of thunder. I thought it was a truck until I knew better, a highway bound truck. Only there are none where I live: no highways. Only dirt roads which – at this time of year – mire and still the rush of wheels. I hear the fleeting beat of an aeroplane’s engine, the whir of propellers. High. High above me and winging its way east. My other children are in the east. And I wish that I was a bird.
But not a crow. I hear those as well. They are late risers and only descend, cawing indignantly, rudely (is that why they are common? No manners?) upon my garden as the afternoon tips to evening, to torment the cats and steal the dogs’ food. Their greed sated this week, one of the dogs has lost her appetite. Her single puppy was born dead. She tried valiantly to revive it, licking its little black lifeless body (the one Hat and I had felt squirm and kick in a belly turned towards us to be rubbed just days before) until its coat shone with a cruelly healthy gleam. She carted it from room to room and then, defeated, she buried it under a bed for me to retrieve and plant in a tiny garden grave. Hat cried. Hat would have liked a small black puppy. She would have called it Sparrow, she said, and it would have helped to alleviate her own noisy silences.
Even when I swim I can’t hear the quiet. Even with my ears full of water I can still hear the splash of my limbs, the comforting rhythm of my breathing. In. Out. In. Out. The sound of Keeping Going. I concentrate on the bottom of the pool as I plough up and down. I can see the sky reflected there. So I know that the sun is slipping behind big black clouds driven forth by thunder in pantechnicons. I know that when I surface a nicotine light will seep and stain where I had hoped for blushing dusk. I watch the debris dance along the bottom of the pool too. A twist of tiny drowned leaves choreographed by my passing stroke. I think I ought to clean it then – the cool blue pool – and lighten my burden of time , for the chore would swallow a little.
I hear the rain on the roof at night. I hear its drip drip through the ceiling and onto the floor. I lay down a towel, to smother the sound so that I can sleep. But I don’t. Instead I worry about spreading tea stains above me and I wonder if I will ever manage to plug them. Or will my home be reduced to veritable sieve. Or tea strainer, come to think of it?
I hear my phone beep. A girlfriend:
Thnx urs. No time now. Will resp l8er.
I hear myself scowl.
And later another. Not her. Not she who promised. My husband:
Shall we got out tonight
So we do. And I hear the sound of other voices. The plinkety plink of a tinkling African band somberly plucking guitar strings and tickling piano keys. And my husband ordering two cold beers. And a coke for Hat.
And it’s ok then. The raucous silence that crowds my head loudly is broken.
For a bit.