Only in Silence
Have you ever heard silence? I mean the kind of silence that overwhelms you. A silence, which is almost divine, or sinister. A silence so powerful that you can only share it with people who are willing to listen.
When I met him, I was waiting in the line a Starbucks to order a coffee. He was ahead of me in the queue so his cup came up before mine.
“Maurice!”, yelled the barista holding up a drink. I looked at him, but he didn’t move. “Maurice!?”
He was just that little bit too far away from the counter for the barista to tap him on the shoulder, so I did instead.
“Excuse me…”, I said, “Maurice? I think your coffee is ready” and I pointed to the barista.
He looked confused, then quickly smiled. He nodded and tapped his chin with a flat hand.
Suddenly, I blushed, I don’t know why. I felt embarrassed, as if I’d called attention to his disability or as if it were offense not to just “know” he was deaf.
Before I knew it, my name was being called and I was just standing there, in a vacuum. By being in the presence of deafness, by just thinking about it, a silence temporarily washed over me.
“Alexis?! … What’s with everyone today?”
“Thanks…”, I said and I grabbed the cup, then scurried away to a seat.
I’d come to Starbucks to work on a translation, but my mind felt scattered. Deaf, I thought. I looked at the playlist on my phone, which I had had every intention of listening to. I heard the metallic noises of the coffee machine, and the humming sound of everyone talking all at once.
It started to feel very loud and a form appeared in front of me. It was him! And he handed me a napkin:
“Thanks for earlier. What’s your name?”
My initial reaction was to speak, but my voice caught in my throat. Even before I consciously realised there was no point in speaking out loud, my body reacted by physically preventing me from doing so. It was as if deafness could scare away sound.
So, I typed on my computer and showed him the screen:
“It was nothing. My name is Alexis. Maurice, is it? I heard your name earlier.”
And he wrote on his napkin:
“That’s makes one of us”.
I blushed again. How stupid of me!
“Oh, I’m sorry!!! Of course…. Sorry. I just meant I remembered it.”
He smiled. He walked over to the counter for another napkin, came back and wrote:
“Don’t apologize. If I could hear, I would probably have heard your name too, but then what would I have said to start a conversation?”
So, that’s how we met. That’s when I first started to wonder about silence.
Despite never actually speaking outloud, Maurice could light up a room with his smile and hog the conversation (by stealing all the pens and paper). When we met the coffee shop that day, we somehow managed to sit there for hours writing to each other. Everything else kind of faded away, like in the movies when they blur the background to focus on the protagonists.
Everything blurred and everything hushed. There was just me and Maurice.