Growing Up

This Silent Beat

She writes on her wrist, “WAIT.” Why Am I Talking? She considers the purpose of every word. Quiet, she weighs intention. She holds.

Under the even veneer, she churns. Silence has its risks. Being forgotten is a possible cost, as is the chance — the near certainty — that others will muddy her canvas with their careless depictions. Secretary, single mom, working class, slob. Vapid, coarse, striving, dull. The urge to speak presses against her throat. She knows the folly of words whose aim is to set the imagined record straight. There is no record — no coherent one, anyway, and none of consequence. She is as fleeting to the rest as they are to her. Attempts to manage impressions with speech have never been successful, and the question is always there: What measures success?

Which is just code for WAIT.

What is the project at hand? What hope? What promise?

Maybe, then, the urge is to chime in. It’s pure enthusiasm, yes? After all, the idea is in play. Impulse, excitement, the ping and rebound. A human labrador, she thrums for an opening, a nod.

She aches for release.

But she’s been in enough rooms with enough words from enough jumbled heads. Absent a design, all those voices clang. They cross and veer, fall short of the mark or land far afield. She’s suffered. More, she’s witnessed shared and persistent low-grade suffering. All fall victim to the aimless talking, the eggshell egos, the throbbing need. Idiocy framed as insight. Five words where one will do. Then 25 more where none belongs. Dismissive of the call for clarity of purpose, they talk on. Add just one more thing. Barrel into the action (failing to check if this is indeed a playground and if they are indeed invited). Calendars squeezed, conversation pressing out completion, day’s needs choking sleep, all excess wrung out of these things we call our lives.

Why Am I Talking?

She chooses the risks of silence over the indulgence of speech. When her voice is needed, she will use it. Not free it, no. She will consider. Qualify. Check and weigh. Why Am I? Making sense of the possible outcomes based on the options at hand, speaking only after thinking, she tries to become the introvert she is not.

Speech is tight. Trim. Like the correspondence, the public face, like every composition. She uses the fine-tipped pen. Only with the door closed, in meandering tangles secreted away in spiral notebooks or private folders, does she dare let impulse loose in words. The place she stores her naked origins needs a key and a code. But she knows, somewhere under the contained madness, that locks are not required. No one wants to know.

The rest are busy tending their own.

She wants to ask them, those clacking skulls, to WAIT. No one cares.

(About you, yes. Fellow earthling. Neighbor. Dear one. Friend. Be well, be whole.)

Also no.

No one wants to hear the thick and spilling conception tale of an embryonic insight. No one has time. When another goes on like this, on and on in the ways she has ceased to allow herself, she marvels at their unchecked ruminating (Ruminants chew their cuds, she recalls. They stand still. They graze. They are prey.) How do they come by their blind confidence, their self-assured oblivion? Why do the rest of us put up with it?

No one is nearly so interesting to us as we are to ourselves. Also its inverse: No one is as interested in us as as we are in ourselves.

Not the best friend, the spouse, the kid. Not even the parent. Not the boss, colleague, or subordinate. Especially not the subordinate, but what is she going to do about it? The conceit is required. The long journey asks for order. It’s how you stay afloat. It’s how, in fact, you stay aboard. Just don’t mistake courtesy for curiosity and respect for reverence. WAIT. Why? Until she can answer that, she’s not.

Grow up, she says without saying it. This is the best she can do.

With regard to becoming, in the absence of the where or the how — or, as it happens, the who — she’s at least got the Why of this silent beat. At least for now.

She keeps the lips sealed. Slips lead to injury or shame, contrition, disavowal. Narratives are demanded. More words, dangerous words, to further twist the lines and spin the vessel.

Better to wait. There is plenty to do in silence.

Loose and light, she leaps across a row of hay bales under a white-blue haze. Arms like wings.

The girl recedes.

She lets her. She watches from behind glass, behind the wheel on the far-off road, moving without noise. Getting to somewhere.

2 thoughts on “This Silent Beat”

  1. This is all so painfully true. No one does care about our thoughts as much as we do. Saying that, I was so engaged as I read through this. But then that was perhaps for selfish reasons, because it resonated, because these are thoughts I’ve had myself, because this could have been about my son. And because I loved your metaphor: the human labrador. The whole piece is poetic and insightful.

  2. Thank you. On my optimistic days, I trust we — the Human we — have a great capacity for welcoming one another’s stories. We attend. We bear witness. Truth is what we create through that exchange.

    It’s good to believe this, too.

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