Hello Silence, My Old Friend
Today I woke to an empty house.
My daughter was at a sleepover and my son was at his grandparents’. My husband had left early for work. It was just me and the dog, and it was quiet.
I had overslept, because why not? There was no one I needed to make breakfast for; no one to check on to see if they’d slept through their alarm. The silence feels eerie. There’s no one to plan the day with over a cup of coffee or bowl of cereal. Bedrooms look like time capsules, with items strewn about as if its inhabitant had to complete a quick escape.
The dog wanders over to me. Even she is quiet. I find myself talking to her. Does she know that someday it will always be this quiet, all the time? Is she okay with that? She stares intently at me. I understand that this means she needs a walk.
We go outside and the world is brewing with activity. Parents holding the hands of small children; cars speeding impatiently down the street; chitchat at the bus stop.
When I was very young, maybe 7 or 8, I asked my father, “What is the sound of silence?” We had just listened to the iconic Simon and Garfunkle song, and the phrasing confused me.
Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted
In my brain still remains
Within the sound of silence
How did silence have a sound? I asked.
My father told me to lay down beside him. He turned off the lights. Wait, he said. Be completely quiet and still. We lay in the silence, and then I heard it: a distant car horn, an unintelligible conversation from the neighbor’s house, the wind rattling against the windowscreen. It was quiet, but the silence had its own story. But you could only hear the secrets that filled the silence if you stopped and listened for it.
In my empty house, I have nothing to distract me from the emotions that want to consume the void. What do I do when there’s no one who needs anything done? What do I do when the only person to serve is myself? These thoughts fill me with anxiety, and then sadness. And then anxiety again. I yearn for a “Mom? Can you… How do you…” I look for something to clean, for laundry to fold, a meal to prep. But then I stop. What if the job of filling the silence is now mine alone?
In the quiet, I am reminded of the visions that were planted in my brain long ago. They speak to me now, asking me: Is it time yet? Can we come out of the shadows now? Can my inner voice stop being the sound in the silence, and instead be the soundtrack to the next chapter?
My heart fills with anxiety. The silence has a sound, and it feels deafening. It feels like fate come knocking, and I need the courage to open the door.