By J.H. Watson
(~ 700 words)
At first I missed his voice.
There’d been times when I’d thought I’d go mad if he didn’t stop talking, talking, talking. He would talk for hours, for days; once he talked for three days straight, at least I assumed he’d continued when I’d fallen asleep, or gone to the loo, or even went out to get the shopping. I know he’d continued to talk when I’d gone to Dublin, missing nothing except my absence.
Now I missed his voice. I can still hear it in my head. Don’t tell my therapist I said that, she would misunderstand. But I do hear it in my head. Those rich, plummy, public school tones; that caustic, snide, superior note. I could read his mind with just a word. John, he would say, and I’d know whether to draw out a suspect or a gun. He could play me like his violin, and treat me as cavalierly — wanting me to hand, but setting me aside at a moment’s distraction. He once said he thought better when he talked out load — so he talked to me.
Then the talking would stop and a silence would begin.
And now I miss the silence. There wasn’t one silence, he had a quiver full of them that he’d fired at me. There was the cold, hard silence of his displeasure. The brittle, bright silence of his injured ego. A silence so taut the air seemed to vibrate around me when his mind was fully engaged, and I knew he would shortly release a brilliant string of deductions. He had an ominous, suffocating silence that seemed to hang like a sodden cloud when he was bored. I miss the cacophony of his silences. But now the deafening silence doesn’t stop, will never stop, there is no end to this dead silence.
So I talk to a skull named Billy to keep from being buried in the silence.
I thought I’d miss the quiet satisfaction I got from John’s listening. He listened actively; not in that fatuous way that therapist do when they “actively listen,” parroting your last remarks, twisting them into question like one of John’s insecure dates trying to appear interested and caring. He listened with his whole being, striving to catch the flow of my quicksilver thoughts, not knowing his efforts caused mine to split and tumble about like beads of mercury prodded with a rod until they suddenly coalesced into a single, bright pool of insight.
But what I miss is the sound of him.
His comings and goings in his solid shoes, his maddening two-finger typing that never found a consistent rhythm, his crap telly braying in the background, his giggling with his gaggle of girlfriends, then the shushing and murmuring before the predictable rhythm of his creaking bed and muffled exclamations as he had sex upstairs. In the morning would be tiptoeing down the stairs, the whispering and kiss at the door, followed by the unconscious humming as he made coffee. Even when he was quiet, he wasn’t still. I find myself waiting and realize I’m waiting for the sound of John’s shifting in his chair; leaning forward and back, his weight sliding from his left hip to his right — there and back again, his limbs moving with a restlessness that told me in the first moments of meeting that he was a man who craved action as much as I craved mental stimulation.
I hear him in my head sometimes, an admonishing “Sherlock.” Or that tight, strained rumble as he erupts into a verbally violent rage pouring forth some pent up frustration because he cannot keep up with my reasoning. He yells well.
The other day a waiter set a cup of tea upon my table and I said, “Thank you, John.” The waiter stopped, startled, and asked, “How did you know my name?” I told him I’d seen it on the seating roster. I lied. The cup and saucer had rattled exactly the way they would when John set tea beside me when I was working. Lost in thought, I’d spoken automatically.
In this well-built room, the sounds of the city and its inhabitants fall deadened. I cannot sleep in peace.
# End #