By Lovanda Brown
Outside, distant sirens and screeching tires darted down the road. The loud demand filled the silence for a few moments, and its whirring refrain lingered in their ears for some time. Finally, the ringing dissolved and it appeared the silence was back. The cream-smeared walls held up the wooden clock, and its glass face grimaced with a crooked smile. The smile read 8:15, and its thin, overlooked hand was ready to perform again. The hand danced rhythmically tick, tock, tick, tock, disrupting the silence once more.
Occasionally they would look up from the long dinner table that extended between them and listen carefully to ambulance alerts and kinked engines. The table was empty now with the exception of the pair, but still they sat. The children had gone off to bed and the tension had rushed the wise grandmother off to bed just the same. Just an hour before, thunderous sounds of clicking and clinking filled the air. Forks to plate, glasses to table and of course the occasional phlegm loosening “ahem” were among the topics of conversation. Now, the two sat in a heavy, unspoken quarrel--a silent dispute all too real.
Connor Blake sat and contemplated the ennui his life had become and it seemed almost every disagreement he had with Grace stemmed from that. As he sat slouched in his chair, he watched the perspiring cup before him. The ice was melting and he knew he would need another pour. His long lanky legs sprawled out underneath the table, and his circular frames rested on the place setting right next to the half-eaten meal his wife prepared just hours before. Small spheres of Brussel sprouts and well-done steak remained on his plate, opposite of him were the remains of Grace’s dinner and the scents gathered to meet the thick tension. He couldn’t help but remember the many silent conversations held between his parents. He’d stand in the shadows of the night and watch them stare at each other from across the family table. His father usually held a hard expression; his mother was usually flustered. He couldn’t understand how they could sit like that for hours, wake up the next morning and diligently tend to their routines. The thought was broken.
“Why can’t we--”
“Please, just don’t say anything right now,” he said interrupting her.
“But I just thought we should talk about this.”
“And we will. Just please, stop talking. I can’t hear myself think.”
Grace remembers just last night he told her they would “discuss it in the morning.” The sun rose and so did the children. Along with his morning coffee and worn briefcase, he carried half the discussion with him to work while she waited at home. Now they sat together in the home they built together, and she couldn’t shake the fact that she missed him. He was sitting right before her and she missed him deeply. She couldn’t help but remember when communication was all they had. She missed the conversations about nothing and the passionate fights about everything. She sat both pale and flustered, a look he had grown accustomed to. Even her brown curls that he once loved were bereft of color. Her once plum cheeks had thinned noticeably and hugged the bones her face carried underneath. Her sullen eyes watched him. With even lips pursed together in a flat line, she watched his body communicate all the things his voice couldn’t seem to utter.
He buried his face in hands and let out a loud sigh. She tousled her brown hair from one side to the next with one palm and crossed both arms before her chest. Still nothing was said. The clock held a consistent conversation with itself.
As did the leaky faucet, but still you had two people, who couldn’t even muster the same monosyllabic conversation as one held by an inanimate clock. They used to be in love.
“Why won’t he talk to her?” said a thought emerging from the night to join the crowded silence.
He was just ten years old, but he knew what happiness looked like. His thin fingers wrapped around the outline of the family room’s entrance, and his body held place behind the masking wall. He was tall and lanky for his age. He removed his circular glasses from its resting place above his nose and gently caressed each lens with his shirt. He placed them back on and let one eye meet the silent scene. They used to be happy. He remembered that. It displayed all over the house. The wedding photos and Christmas
portraits were once ignored by the young boy. Now, he would give anything just to see them smile like that again. He couldn’t understand how they could sit for hours like that at night, and still manage to get him ready for school in the morning. He couldn’t
understand why they just couldn’t talk.
Was it a game? No, of course not. That’s the same expression his mother had when she was called to meet with his principal. The disappointed demeanor was harsher than the punishment.
The stern gaze never lifted from his father’s blue eyes, but his mother’s pained stare broke his heart. She was hurt and he knew it.
“Listen, you said you wanted to talk about this,” Grace said.
“I know that’s what I said, but--” he stopped right there. He wanted to tell her everything-- that he was tired of his mediocre life, that the disdain for it was quite frankly abysmal and he wasn’t sure how to fix that.
But the words would only stain the silence. No more silent conversations and tending to routines to avoid these feelings.
Words would only pierce the practice of seeming happy. He wasn’t sure they could bounce back from that. Some things were just better left unsaid, he supposed. They’d get back to where they were. He needed time to figure out all he would say, but mostly, all he wouldn’t.
Looking down the hole of the now empty glass, he couldn’t bring himself to stain the silence so he embraced it awhile longer.
And somehow, understanding just what he meant, his wife leaned back, sipped from her glass and resolved to share the moment with him.