Particles of Silence
As my water arrives-just water, no ice- I think about how our world is made of particles. Bubbles of trapped air are swirling through my glass like a whirlwind and broken off pieces of conversation reach me, only to bounce off again onto another body; the air is full of particles of sound. Sound bites from the nearby fountain; water falling, being pumped back into the system, ascending, then falling again, weaving an intricate net of air trapped foam in its path. My black granite table top has particles of shining Mica in it-they reflect light and I imagine them absorbing some of the sound through the angles of shine, facets, canyons where sound falls and is forever lost.
I want to lose these words my ears don’t want to hear, but which come at me, stubbornly, from the nearby tables: toddler, parent, discipline, tantrum…I want to drown them out, so I envision them being absorbed by my table… whipped out, eaten, eradicated from my life, then regurgitated with upward motion, only to fall even deeper into the ridges of my mental canyons where no sound lives, only quiet.
Particles of cold air are sifting quietly through a crack in the closed door of the restaurant and so I keep my jacket on to ward off their bite. My jacket of down and feathers- a million particles woven together to shield me from the frost outside-the white glistening snow; water molecules frozen into beautiful capricious shapes, then frozen further still into impenetrable ice –sleek and cold, like your stare-unreachable; leaving me outside the gates of your soul, through which I may not pass.
A broken woman sits at the table across from mine. She is propped up and holds herself together, staring into the distance, occasionally nodding absentmindedly at the conversation around her. Only her body there, held together by brittle stitching- but she is coming apart at the seams; literally, and as I look closer I can see the hidden stitches: thick dark XX”s, painfully drawing designs across her body; lines which follow her tired joints: arm to shoulder, neck to head, leg to thigh…attempting to hold her together just a bit longer…just through this meal…just through today…just through the night and perhaps another hopeless day.
She needs to hold it together…but the desire to run, hide, and scratch at her wounds, which burn to keep her alive, is almost unbearable. She restrains herself; holding her hands together, knuckles white with effort, within view of the others; the silent witnesses who do not see, do not hear, do not say.
As she restrains herself she feels the pain of taut skin and coarse thread-and yet she knows they cannot hold her together forever. At some point the first bridle X will give, stretched out too tight, too long; and give place to a Y and then just a gap through which her soul might escape like smoke-barely perceived by the naked eye. (That which pains her is near, it speaks through gaping mouth crowned by handlebars stiff with gel.)
Particles of shame evaporate from her now open pores and that single X, which gave, is a break in the dam. She fidgets uncomfortably in her chair, wondering if they can see; wanting to run but finding no legs; wanting to scream and finding no throat, no voice…afraid to make the gap bigger with a move, she sits and tries to smile, but stops when she notices vapor seeping through her barely open lips; vapor the color of smoke, the color of pain. She closes them tight against the horror-a thin white line which makes her look a bit more invisible; almost melting into the wallpaper background…but just then He sees, and turns to her a ice cold eye.
(Attention is brought back to my table as the waitresses concerned voice speaks, shaking me back into my own reality:” What?” I ask “Your water. You don’t want?” she asks. “Oh, no, thank you. I just wanted to watch the particles floating inside…”-“The what?” she asks “Oh, nothing. Just the check, please”)
I look back at the table across from mine but the woman is no longer there. Her vacant seat seems unmoved, her food untouched; conversation at the table unbroken as the handlebars, still moving to control every syllable spoken, bob up and down to reveal a set of false teeth gleaming unnaturally forth.
She is not there.
I search the room, and in my panic, notice a small cloud of smoke particles moving quietly, in an almost unperceivable roll, along the ceiling. It is slowly making its way towards the exit door… Small, dark and quiet, it is tortuously creeping out…
I rush over and open the door to the cold night air: snow flakes are drifting in, and a nervous waiter politely asks me to please close the door again, which I do, slowly scanning the ceiling above for any sign of her… but she is gone; she has slipped through the icy crack of silence and night.
And no one at her table has noticed.
Gabriela Cover is a student in Terry Wilson’s creative writing class at Santa Fe Community College.