Suspicious Silence

I love taking long, hot baths. With a good book and a glass of water, I can last a solid hour, topping up the hot water until my feet prune. To be completely submerged in the water, limbs supported and free from gravity is a state of blissful isolation.

The door is locked against intrusive sisters or mothers, and the world is quiet and well-lit. I always submerge my head completely for a while, holding my breath and letting my hair wisp around me like Ophelia.

When I was eleven, we watched the first 20 minutes of “Scream” at school. I don’t know why we did it, but I definitely do consider that teacher an idiot for agreeing to show it. Anyway, I remember those minutes too easily. The empty house, the girl on her own, the popcorn, the phone ringing, her fear. The manipulative music, dim lighting and intense camera work, speeding up my heart along with hers. Then the scene where she pulls the blinds and, unbeknownst to her, the stranger on the phone has captured her boyfriend and tied him to a chair. Just outside her house. Without her ever hearing a sound until it was too late. This has become a fragment of my youth. This suspicious silence.

I am deaf without my hearing aids. Silence is my preferred state sometimes. I embrace it more and more when I am alone. It comforts me to be able to shut the world out. As a child, I’d always switch off to read. Why hear the world while reading? It seems pointless. It definitely drove my parents mental, to shout and call for me and have me be blissfully unaware until they found my reading spot.

Silence is a physical feeling. I prefer it with my hearing aids out, as with them in I feel closed off from its’ nuances and breezes. With them in and off, I feel like my head is wrapped in a cotton fog and as though I have no real sense of balance. Like a cat without whiskers.

You can’t wear hearing aids in the bath. They don’t get wet.

One day at home, I was taking a bath. No aids on, reading “The Vampire Lestat” (yes, I was, and still am, that kid), and totally absorbed in a lush, violent and greedy world. Soaking ’til the water cooled. Immersed in every sense of the world. Total silence.
As another fool succumbed to the false allure of everlasting life, I noticed how incredibly and totally quiet it was. Suddenly that silence seemed to fill up the entire room, so much so that I made the water splash around a bit on purpose to break it.

Emerging, I dried myself off and started to dress. Normally I could hear the dogs barking, or someone shouting. Surely dinner was soon, and my mother should be shouting for help setting the table or making the salad.

My heart stumped a little as I reached for my aids and switched myself on.
Still silent.
Fingers fidgeting, I walked through the house, hoping everyone was just having a quiet sunset glass of wine. I could hear Roy Orbison singing, “Only the lonely… know the way I feel tonight…”

The sun was setting and the house was dark. I couldn’t hear anyone. The kitchen light was on, but no pots or pans were banging. It was just quiet. That awful suspicious silence.
The glasses were on the coffee table, phones nearby. Untouched cheese and crackers on the wooden board. Roy’s still singing, “…know the heartache I’ve been through…” when my dad’s blackberry rings.

The quiet is shattered and I swallow my heart. Where is everyone and why aren’t they where they are supposed to be? Why aren’t where they’re supposed to be?! WHERE IS EVERYONE? 

When my little sister laughs, she has a cackle that can be heard across the valley. I know this to be true, because as soon as the phone stopped ringing, I heard it. From all the way down at the fish pond. She’d caught something tiny in the sunset light.

I don’t really take very long baths any more.


NB. I started to write this after reading the introduction to Neil Gaiman’s short story collection, Trigger Warning, in which he describes those things we have lurking in the corner of our selves that can terrify us completely. This is one of my first memories of being completely irrationally terrified for no ‘justifiable’ reason. 

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