In the days when I’d visit my dear friend Rebecca, I remembered silence. Those afternoons of unrelenting nothing. Of near to zero noise and conversation and TV buzz. So many days, a million, we’d sit cross-legged from each other, she in her rocking chair, I in a vintage gold velvet-covered, straight-back number, and just melt into air. In complete repose, Rebecca would cross her hands over her chest of many colors — how she loved color — while I’d struggle for something to say to bridge the vast resounding quiet. There was this teeny smile that’d play over Rebecca’s lips because she knew how I roiled against the not talking and filling the gaps with small talk, but as always, she knew me well enough to know I could learn a lesson.
My eyes darted and skimmed and eventually settled because if someone doesn’t want to talk, no amount of your nervousness is going to make her. I smelled the musky dried lavender she’d collected a year earlier and placed in one of her small glass containers, probably a jelly jar; and I heard the calla lilies outside her window stroke each other’s silk, and there was a clock ticking. Soon enough, I stopped hearing it. But there were pictures — so many! — that she painted with an impossibly steady hand for 92 years old, and scriptures, and newsboy caps on boys who’d died in 1912.
And I absorbed them all into my ether until I’m quite unseparate from those melting minutes days.
We didn’t stay that way too long because Rebecca took pity and pulled out something she wrote or I wrote and asked me to read. All this naked nearness — without silly sounds to plug the ticking clock — let me hear who I was and what I wanted and who I was, to me, the most important part because we do forget.
There’d be these simple, so complicatedly simple sentences she’d give me, which against the billowing silence grew round and profound and distilled the deepest confusion of the soul into its smallest part — you know who you are, you know who you are, you know who you are.
She knew who I was.
She made it so I would know too.
Now there’s noise, most which I make myself. Taking the time to take time is lost like feathers to the wind. I hear, I say, “Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!” and it makes me tired and scattered. I’ve forgotten to look inside. There’s too much outside.
But I’m quite unseparate from those melting minutes days.
Because there is always the silence.
It calls like November, like crossed hands on a chest, an empty chair, dried flowers breaking when you don’t notice, when you’re asleep even while awake; it cries, it keens, it pulls at you.
It knows who you are.
And if you’re lucky you find the person, you even, who listens until the noise outside fails to scare you into who you are not. Any more.