I bought some ear plugs. They are made of “skin tonedfoam that doesn't match my skin at all. I had been thinking about getting a pair for some time, but I was very concerned that I’d look strange with them on. But, then, the other day, I realised that I could put my headphones (for my CD player) over the plugs and look quite socially acceptable (as much as I can manage in any case.) I was shocked to see the wide array of ear plugs that were available at the pharmacy. There were at least two dozen different brands. I like pharmacies. I roam around in them regardless of what city I’m in. I like to see all of the different remedies that are available. I’m not ill, but it’s good to know what’s out there. Well, the point is that New York pharmacies have a lot of ear plugs. I guess they’re popular here.

So, with my new “33 decibel sound reducing ear plugs” firmly in place, and my head phones snugly over them I wandered in to the subway. As in a dream, the sounds of peoples feet, the sounds of the turnstile clicking and the escalator rumbling, the wonderful and terrible thunder of trains, the babble of children and angry lovers, the noise of the buskers, the rustle of cloth and bags and packages were all muffled or extinguished. All I could hear was my own breathing. So, I had to keep my eyes very wide to keep track of what was going on. It’s a good thing I have sharp eyes.

I started looking at other people’s ears. Having seen the garish variety of sound stoppers at the Duane Read I wondered if others had gone deaf by choice as I had. In fact, the truth is, a shocking number of New Yorkers can’t hear anything because their ears are purposely stopped up.

As I rode up to harlem enjoying the silence and the rumble of the train I watched a woman get on at 59th street. She had on ear plugs, fancy ones. Then, when she sat down she took out a sleeping mask made of soft black felt and put it her eyes. And there she sat. Still. Blind. Deaf. (and dumb)

I was not certain if the violent emotion I felt was pushing me towards getting a mask like that myself ... or tearing out my ear plugs and hers as well then forcing her to see and talk.