So I’m thinking about silence these days. Silence like standing in front of a door. Silence like something cold. Like having your mouth cut from your face. Like writing, maybe, if the writing doesn’t work.

“Shut up”
“No you shut up”

When we’re fighting, I say a lot of things that aren’t true. It’s my way of coming to the things that are true. I go through the list: you never take out the trash… you never really loved me… it’s too cold outside to have sex… until I hit the one that makes me cry. That’s the process. That’s the way I wage war these days.

I’m wondering about the difference between silence and calm. It’s been quiet lately. Very quiet.

The first time I had an anxiety attack, I was listening to the ocean in Florida. I didn’t know it was an anxiety attack at the time. I wrote my first poem about it. I was listening to the ocean, and the screams just started. They weren’t harsh. Just loud. Like a bunch of noisy children inside a cathedral. Like the scene in my favorite novella, where Edna steps through a field of wheat. Chopin didn’t write about the voices, but I heard them when I read it. That’s the first time I thought I had something to write about.

The second time I had an attack, I was at my computer. The same sound, but this time I didn’t have an ocean to blame it on. No fields. No Chopin. There was nothing to push the sound onto. I shook my head for a long time. Jimmy was in the other room so I tried talking to him. I don’t remember when it finally stopped, but I never wrote about it again.

“Sometimes I’m so quiet I blend into the background until I disappear.” – mona

The visual and aural are intimately connected. When the throat doesn’t move, the entire face falls off. I’ve thought about this in terms of feminists, how they’re constantly trying to find their “voices.” Even though sexism is about appearance and imagery, about flattening a women into a picture of the woman. That picture isn’t the dangerous part. It’s the fact that a picture doesn’t speak. You don’t see minority groups clamoring for their “image.” They search for a voice. The voice appears. Silence disappears.

My mom and dad fought constantly when I was a kid. They’d tuck us in, go down to the kitchen, and have it out. Mom was always the loudest. Julia and I would listen at the top of the stairs. Boy, she’s really giving it to him, smiling a little.Yeah.. In high school, the fighting stopped. Dad moved upstairs and went to sleep early. Mom watched TV with us. She talked about money a lot. I knew if she had had any, she would have left him.

Since I moved to New York, I don’t go to bars unless Alex begs me. I get attacks so easily these days. But it’s not the noise that gets to me. Not the snobby hipsters, the drunk idiots, the jackasses blabbing about their latest installation at Eyebeam. It’s the fact that I can’t hear my voice even when I’m talking.

That’s the reason I left that night and walked home alone. I forgot my scarf and my gloves, but Alex picked them up when he took care of the check. Then I was in the middle of my own kitchen saying it: we never talk anymore. Except I wasn’t saying it. I was screaming. I was flipping every switch in the dark apartment, waking up the neighbors, shouting so loud that both cats hid under the bed. For the first time I thought I could leave. I could walk out right now. And that actually made sense. A street in Brooklyn is just as cruel and quiet. But it’s supposed to be quiet. That kind of silence isn’t so personal.

with winter dropping it’s stones on the street,
everything sounds like the final sound.
which is why I’m down here
next to the floor

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