the beating of your own heart? the passing of time as words drip like water from the tongues of lovers, splashing you with regret for things still to be said?

the miserable march of days marked by nothing, no trivial touchstone to file away with the rest
the hungry belly absence of touch
the reminiscing bells of far away, long ago, and what could have been done differently
the straining twang of a tenaciously clinging dream web
the dry scratch of a leaf across a square mile of pavement no feet will tread over today?

do you hear my thoughts, as they work back to you and wonder? do you hear my nights awake in the dark of a back room, as the cat scratches to come in but he's not the one i want to share the broken bed?

what is there to solicit when nothing has been said about time? what if i'm not supposed to notice?

i fear giving up and forgetting and saying that this was just another point on a chalkboard that makes me whole, human, adult, competent to dispense advice, admirable in my conquests, yet ultimately back where i began -

cold and afraid in a big world i can't understand, torn from my recent history, the delusion of safety and stability all crushed and askew

maybe you hear this:

on the porch, the song i sing to the stars
the sonic disruption of my cigarette smoke with its best first search algorithm to reach them
my feet, bare against the dewy morning and the reassuring cold of my hands on my neck or stomach
the fable i'm giving so generously.
sometimes, in the silence, i think i hear my future.

i often find that silence can become seemingly loud. during meditation or metacognition the senses dull and silence becomes absolute. the total silence can grow into an engine-like sound or a high pitched shrill. the drug ventolin (also known as salbutamol) is said to induce a similar experience. the song ventolin by aphex twin was supposedly influenced by this drug.

beauty of
cigarette light
the dark
a roar
a hot summer afternoon
Do you hear the perpetual sorrow of a thousand broken hearts pumping to the beat of a scratched, junk store record?

Or is it the cries of a hundred lost souls seeking compassion and solace from the cold, silent nights?

Maybe you hear the echo of all your problems amplified and broadcast into a small room with no windows.

Perhaps it is your thoughts screaming by faster than you can think them, like a flurry of five year olds towards Santa Claus in an overcrowded shopping mall with no air circulation.

Or maybe it is only the pain in your head and the ringing in your years from straining yourself in the dead of the night during a frigid, static daze, trying to listen for something you only wish you could hear.

If you close your eyes, maybe you hear me.

As the silence stretches, interminable, I yearn for something to break it. I yearn for you to break it.

With a laugh perhaps, or a gentle word.

With the sound of a hand stroking skin, an indrawn breath, or a tongue darted out to moisten dry lips.

A sigh.

But you stand there, holding your breath, unspeaking, unmoving, your eyes cast down.

And in my head, where no-one can hear it but me, the silence shatters.

I hear a bell tolling a death knell.

How many strokes for the passing of a love?

It's weird

I grew up in Reading, just outside London. My parents house was underneath the flightpath to Heathrow Airport and less than half a mile from the M4 Motorway. There is no such thing as silence there. Even in the dead of night you can hear the sound of distant juggernaughts.

Especially in the middle of a cold still night when the silence should be at its best.

After a while, you learn to block it out. You'll be happily enjoying a quiet moment, then you notice it again. You begin to pick up on the noise of different vehicles, the noise of a high powered motorbike overtaking, a police car following soon after. And always, the drone of many rolling tyres.

These days I live in London, and whilst the noises are different, they're still the same. The 24/7 westward bound commuter trains from Paddington Station. The familiar noise of cars on the Western Expressway. The underground rattling underneath. Planes overhead. More police cars. More stereos. More background noise.

Even when I'm not there, I still hear it. My mind is so used to blocking it out that it's absense creates the inverse sound. It has the same effect. But it's even more intrusive.

Sometimes I wish it wasn't this way.

The silence only comes with the darkness and that dark silence is where my fears find their voice

They tell me, over and over, things I don't want to hear and that I'm almost certain aren't true.

They tell me that my daughter isn't working hard enough at school, that she doesn't stand a chance of passing her exams, that she is doomed to spend her life flipping burgers or filing. They grow louder, and tell me she has fallen in with the wrong crowd, is going off the rails, becoming delinquent. They say she is unhappy. And they tell me emphatically that it's all my fault because I'm a bad mother.

They tell me that my husband knows all my secrets, and that he is just looking for the right words to confront me, and then he'll leave me. They say he'd never forgive me, and if I think he could, I'm fooling myself. They tell me that my mother-in-law is right -- that I'm too fat, too stubborn, not a good enough housekeeper, that I ought to find a job, any job, rather than struggling on trying to make my business work, if I want to make him happy. They say he doesn't need me, that he'd be better off with someone else -- someone younger, prettier, better.

They tell me that my lover lies. That he neither wants me or loves me, and that he swears he does for some strange reason of his own, that maybe he's just waiting for the perfect moment to tell me it was all a lie and so destroy me, utterly.

They tell me, often, that I am nothing. That if I disappeared, I'd barely be missed, let alone regretted.

So, I stay awake, in the light, and surround myself with noise until I'm exhausted, because I don't want to listen to the silence.


When I was a teenager, the world could be blocked out easily with headphones and a high volume setting. This, understandably, made my ears ring constantly. I have since grown up, but still block the world out with headphones, to save having to listen to a confusing mass of languages, voices, accents, engines, piped music, noise from other people's headphones, or the wind through the trees, the buildings, or just hitting my ears at speed while I'm cycling. I have grown used to the headphones. If I have to walk anywhere without them, and without a convenient wall to check my bearings against, I tend to weave in a slightly drunken manner. When everyone else hears silence, I hear a faint high-pitched tone reminding me that, someday, I should turn the music down before I go deaf.
But every time I look at the volume control, or even go so far as to turn it down, I'm reminded by something irritatingly loud or just irritating nearby.

On top of this, I grew up in the Reading area. As mentioned above, trains, cars, aircraft. All day, all night, constant background noise, with Concorde twice a day, drowning everything else out with a noise like tearing silk in a firestorm, regular as clockwork until the very last flight, and a disturbing quiet ever after. Even after moving a few miles away, I swapped the cars for louder aircraft, a different train line, and frequent low-altitude helicopters. I have grown to recognise the thudding of an RAF Chinook, and distinguish it from the high-pitched rattle of civilian helicopters, and the dwelling drone of the police. When the sun is up, there are birds. Loud birds. Birds while I'm trying to sleep through the approacing dawn, while I'm trying to eat, trying to write. I'm used to constant noise. If all is silent apart from the ever-present ring of hearing damage and the familiar thud of my heartbeat, I feel a sense of unease. This Should Not Be. Something Has Gone Horribly Wrong (and not just my internet connection deciding to die the second I type that). As far as I'm concerned, the world should not be silent.

Even as I sit here, in the middle of the night, I could turn everything off. The loud whining hum of the computer I'm using while my regular one is being fixed, the TV set to a radio station, the hum of the monitor... I don't want to. Sure, it could do with some adjustment, as the computer's noises are boring into my skull painfully, but I like the noise. I welcome it. I crave it; just on my terms, not on those of the people around me talking loudly about petty social matters I have no understanding of or interest in.

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