At night, my house is quiet.
It’s real quiet, not the quiet that is born from roommates studying across the room from me, which gets interrupted by one of us starting the kettle for tea or tossing popcorn at somebody’s flashcards. It’s real quiet, not the quiet that I’m immersed in when I stand off the beaten path at my favorite place to run, where the wind provides harmony to the birds’ chirping. It’s real quiet, not the kind to which I wake in the morning, the kind wherein the possibility that accompanies a brand-new day hums. It’s nighttime quiet, quiet that sits with me and on me and around me. It’s good for reading, for sipping tea, for writing. It’s good for running bathfuls of steaming water and immersing myself until I am sure I, too, am steaming, so clean. It’s good for praying, because the voice of God cuts right through it, landing with me and on me and around me. But it’s quiet.
Sometimes, the quiet is so quiet that I long for something to shock me out of it. If only the upstairs neighbors, who used to keep me awake when we all should have been asleep, would salsa dance in high heels again. If only someone would knock on the door, ask to borrow my phonebook, settle down at the bar for some scrambled eggs. If only my own voice would tell me stories (if only that wouldn’t alarm anyone.) Sometimes, though, the quiet is so quiet that I can hear myself think. Sometimes, sitting in a bath, with my skin turning redder and redder because it’s so hot, I can hear myself, sure of things and sure of being unsure of things. I grow and tend to and gather the courage to step out into the quiet. Sometimes, out of the quiet rise my stories, my songs, my laughter at the way the cat perches by the window, as if she’s waiting for the stars. Sometimes, the quiet is so quiet that I let out a sigh of relief, which startles me. I wonder how much quiet I can fit into the old mason jars on top of the fridge, if I can bring them with me to chaotic places, to unknown places, to loud, frantic places and unscrew them, letting the quiet seep out and calm my bones and everyone else’s.
Sometimes, I do get lonely. I walk into my roommates’ rooms—they are in their respective homes, in different places far away—and I wish that one of them was sitting on her bed, her eyes ready to light up at the sight of me. (Sometimes, I steal food off of their shelves and convince myself that I’m doing them a favor, since it will probably go bad before they return.) Sometimes, when I’m running at the Riverwalk, I stop and squat to pet puppies and squeeze the toes of babes in strollers, just to say hello, just to give pause to the throng of my thoughts that is steadily running alongside me. So it is lonely. But my phone does ring and vibrate with words. My inbox fills up, with work emails and other things, things I am happy to read. I schedule coffee dates with friends in town, and it’s refreshing to sit across from someone while I drink, listen to their stories, watch their eyes follow the napkins the wind blows on the ground. So mostly, it’s not lonely—just quiet.
The quiet is a gift, I think. I do not always think this—sometimes I feel suffocated by it, so much so that I turn on music as soon as I walk in the house, almost as a plea to the silence to find me later. But sometimes, when I can think and read and write, when the house is vibrating with the electricity generated from these things, when the tea kettle is the only sound, whirring alongside my typing—then, it seems like a gift. Sometimes, it will hand me pieces of myself that I had been drowning out with sound, some I’m happy to see, and others that cause me to flinch. If I let it settle on me and push me, if I let it punctuate my thoughts until they’re something worth writing, even in a letter I may not send, if I let it remind me of the things I forget when it’s loud, then it’s worth keeping the music low.
Find your quiet, find it in the dark rooms when you need to cry, find it with the doors locked, find it in a clearing in the woods. Find your quiet and listen to yourself try to fill it; hear what you’re whispering or screaming or singing under the noise. Find your quiet, let it rock you with its lullabies and surprise you with its clarity. Let it insist that you are who you’ve been and let it give you a landscape on which you can dream bright, loud dreams. Find your quiet, your steadfast, strong, scary quiet. Find it and wait in it, be in it, dream in it, because you can’t can it up and bring it along. And soon enough, there will be a knock at the door.