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Vignette #6 - Quiet

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avatar Chiaroscuro
Level 53 : Grandmaster Ladybug
175
For just a moment, it was quiet.

All the noise, all the hustle, bustle, the going to and fro, everything. Went. Quiet. The sound of the bells chiming in his head, the sound of the wind whistling through the trees, the sound of the whole wide world around him with all of its beautiful scenes and strange people and magical…things…they all stopped. Just…stopped.

And then it all came back. There it all was again, like a rushing flood. The laughter outside the window. The creaking of the floors above him, the sound of a far-off engine.

He sat back in his chair, thinking, wondering, feeling.

Listening.

♦♦♦

Jules sighed as he folded up the blanket that had been sitting there unused, pushed up against the side of the bed. He’d originally put it there just in case, if he ever needed a lighter throw to stave off the cool summer nights. But by now, it’d just been sitting there, bunched up, beginning to fall into the crack between his mattress and the wall of his dingy dorm room. A decoration piece, more than a useful item.

He could feel his eyelids beginning to droop with the weight of drowsiness. He stole a quick glance at the clock. It was already long past midnight, that strange time when every voice outside his open window seemed out of place, like a lively birdsong on a foggy morning or an ice cream cone on a rainy day.

Since when was staying up this late normal for people? Jules thought to himself. He fell backward onto his narrow bed, staring up at the ceiling in thought. Perhaps he shouldn’t be so judgmental of other people; he was, after all, among those night owls relishing the silence.

He looked at the shirt he held in his hand. Light gray, with a small logo on the front and a smattering of lettering on the back. Nothing special, yet so special at the same time. He’d gotten that shirt the last time he competed in a swim meet. Life was good back then. Simple, even. He closed his eyes, focusing on his breathing in an effort to calm himself down. From what? he wondered to himself. He couldn’t think of an answer.

Deep inside himself, he longed to experience that moment of quiet again. There was something so magical about that one moment, that fleeting instant in which everything seemed at peace. He wished the constant annoying soundtrack inside his head would stop, those endless loops of the latest songs and biggest hits. He wished his head would stay still, his heart would calm down, anything, everything that he could think of. A lot of things ailed him.

It had been a long day for Jules, and a rollercoaster of one at that.

If he could’ve done it all again, he would’ve. He would’ve left, had he known. Not had to see what he dreaded most, what he’d been telling himself wasn’t the case for the last…who knows how long. But if he’d known, then what would’ve been the point?

He would’ve changed it, if he’d known. Done something else, tried a little harder. Not had to feel that gnawing, consuming feeling eating at his soul, taking out chunks like a lion at a fresh carcass. That nagging dread devouring and overtaking and overpowering and destroying him from the inside, rearing its ugly head to confront him every so often.

All of that would have been gone. He’d said that this was his year, that he’d finally get everything together and figure it all out and he’d be happy…and successful…and free. Free from want, free from expectation, free from waiting around for things to happen to him. He’d go out and do it for himself, finally be the change that he so desperately wanted. But by now half the year had gone by, half of his year, and nothing had changed.

He wanted freedom from himself. So Jules stayed on his bed, motionless, and allowed the world around him to stimulate his senses. He kept his eyes closed, breathing deeply and slowly, clearing his mind of everything that plagued it. He silenced the music, pushed out the words, drowned out the noises around him. And then he felt it again.

But something was wrong.

Or rather, everything was wrong, but not all at once. One moment, in the silence, it was his heart, pounding away like a woodpecker on a robust tree. Another moment, in the calm, it was the noise, that low-frequency hum that seemed to follow him everywhere he went.

Jules sighed. He sighed as if doing so would release all of his troubles, absolve him of his sins and clear him of his memories; he sighed as if doing so would cure his illnesses and bring him peace and joy and laughter and it did none of that. Yet he still sighed, because what else was there to do?

He looked around. His room, once a messy scatter of things that brought joy and laughter and pain and stress into his life, was empty. Barren. Everything that had once been in there had been collected into a few cardboard boxes, ready to be moved out.

Jules closed his eyes and laid his head back onto his pillow. His work was done for tonight. Perhaps a good sleep would clear his head, like it usually did. That was all he could hope for at this point.

♦♦♦

Finally, it was quiet.

All the noise, the hustle, bustle, the goings to and fro, everything. No, it wasn’t gone. But it was quiet. The sound of stomping on the floor above, the sound of voices from the street outside, the sound of the whole wide world around him with its marvelous characters and eclectic happenings and wonderful…things…they all disappeared. Just…disappeared.

But this time, they didn’t come back. There was no rushing flood, no sudden laughter outside the window or creaking from the floor above. They couldn’t come back, because they’d never stopped in the first place.

He sat back in his chair, listening, wondering, but not feeling.

And he wanted nothing more than to bring that noise back.

♦♦♦

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