The Sound of Silence

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
I’ve always hated hospitals. The despair clings to the walls, the cries of aching patients, the heartache of the family they leave behind. I walk through one now, fingers playing lazily across the walls as I walk, eyes focused on the floor in front of me. Like the child that I feel like now, vulnerable and helpless, I leap from tile to tile, making certain to only touch the pale blue ones that are spaced two tiles apart.

When the strangely coloured light filters out of one of the doorways, I pause in my trek, having to catch myself on the wall with my hands and lean on tiptoes to keep from escaping the confines of the blue tile. Attention focused on peering inside the room without falling off the tile, I don’t notice the man come up behind me.

“It’s a chapel,” he says softly, so as not to startle me. I jump anyway, and turn to him.

“I know that,” my voice sounds indignant, as childish as the game I’m still keeping up. The man before me is tall with square shoulders and a set jaw, as if he’s trying to keep this mask of indifference up. His hair is a soft chestnut colour and his eyes are a pale green with flecks of gold. He appears about thirty.

He chuckles to himself as I size him up, and points down toward my feet. “The white is lava?” He guesses.

“No,” I respond, suddenly feeling stupid for keeping to the blue tiles. “I just…” I try thinking up an excuse for the game but can think of none. “I like the colour blue?”

He doesn’t hold back his laughter now. I like how it lightens his features. It makes him look almost tolerable. As he laughs, I chance another look around the doorway into the chapel. The carpet inside is a stark difference to the tile in the rest of the immaculate hospital. It’s a deep blue, and the wood paneling of the pews helps to offset it nicely. The windows are stained glass, probably causing the strangely coloured light pouring out of the room.

“See that?” He asks, pointing toward the head of the thing, where a marble statue stands, an image of what I can only guess is the virgin Mary, holding out her arms.

I nod. “Of course I do.”

I turn my gaze back to him. He gestures toward the room. There’s nothing much else for me to do, so I go on, making certain to leap onto the carpet so I don’t touch the white tile. He notices and stifles laughter as I tip rather precariously on the edge.

He touches my back, just between my shoulder blades, with the tip of his finger, and I stumble inside.

“Thanks,” I mutter as he walks in behind me.

There are a few fake trees lining the walls, and some soft candlelight flickers from small indents in the wall where votives are perched in glistening silver holders. I smile at the fire’s warmth, and the way the room feels around me.

“So, what brings you into the hospital today?” He asks casually, sitting in one of the pews.

I say nothing, and instead counter. “What brings you here?” I ask angrily.

“I’m here to save the world,” he responds without skipping a beat. I scowl at him.

“Sure,” I say, still standing and not knowing what to do with myself. He gestures toward the pew in front of him, but I shake my head subtly.

“I am, though. I work here.” And suddenly I am disgusted with this man lounging against the wood of the pew, candlelight playing across his face. I am disgusted with this man who has more blood on his hands than I’ve probably seen in my life. I am disgusted with this man who couldn’t save her. Who wouldn’t save her.

“Save lives?” I scoff, letting my fury show plainly on my face. I have no sympathy for this…this killer.

“Yes…” his voice is slow, tentative. “That’s what I do, after all. Or what I try to do.”

And suddenly, as the word ‘try’ slips past his lips, a tear drips out of my eyes. It traces a wet path down my cheek bone and past my chin, dripping on to the carpet below my feet, joining what I can only assume are countless others, shed from the eyes of those who have lost everything.

He notices, and looks at my face wordlessly. His eyes seem to be searching for something, what, I can only guess. When the first tear finishes its journey down my face, others come, first slowly, then faster and faster until I feel that they’ll never stop.

When he gets up and approaches, I lash out at him, hitting him square in his set jaw. A pale pink mark appears amongst his barely noticeable stubble, in the shape of my hand. I almost feel shame, but the fury overwhelms it.

“You didn’t save her!” I say. My voice isn’t loud, but the icy edge to it conveys enough. “You didn’t even try! She was there, in the bed! All you had to do was fix it. All you had to do was save her. It was easy.” My voice slowly loses its force and turns into a whisper.

He waits a few minutes, letting the tears continue to flow down my face, before he slowly, carefully, wraps me in a hug. I cry myself out, until I feel so hollow, so empty, that nothing seems real. And all the while he’s there, grounding me with his arms. I feel almost safe.

When the tears have ceased and I’ve silenced a little, he lets me go. “Who was she?” He asks, voice gentle.

“My mom.” My voice is barely a whisper. I don’t even know if he hears it. But by the way he immediately embraces me again, I think that he does.

“What happened?” He says, backing away from me again, this time, I fear, for good.

“She was sick,” I say, and sniffle a little. “In the mind, I mean. After Dad left, she didn’t quite know what to do with herself. And then she got in…” I choke on my next words. “A car accident. There was head trauma and something about internal bleeding…You could’ve fixed it.”

The words are irrational, I know. This doctor doesn’t even tend to my mother. Maybe didn’t even know she was checked in to the hospital at all. But it doesn’t matter.

“I wish I could’ve,” he responds simply, knowing that there is not much else to say. But when I look up into his face, I see him broken. His shoulders have slumped forward a little, and his eyes are pleading and sad. “I wish I could’ve.” He repeats, as if saying it again will solidify it in my mind.

And then I understand that this is just as hard for him as it is for me. I imagine having to relive the scene at my mother’s bedside daily. It must break his heart, every person he cannot save. For a moment, the candlelight encompasses us both in its warmth.

Finally I reach out and wrap my fingers in his. His eyes flicker with something, hope, I think, as he holds on to the hand of a helpless child. Our fingers intertwined, both faces a mask of defeat, we seem to understand something, just from the steadiness our hands bring to each other.

At times, the sound of silence is the only sound that needs to be heard.

I look at him and smile, tears in my eyes. I know that this man, who I will never see again, who I will never attempt to come into contact with, has changed my life. And I have changed his. Maybe I will never see my mother’s face again. Maybe my father, his drunken eyes and his hot temper, await me when I go to a new home. Maybe I will never be hopeful again.

But here, wrapped in this moment, in this beautiful silence, I feel whole for a moment, a precious moment that will be mine to cherish forever.





Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

Megan.J.B said...
Feb. 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm

This is really beautiful! You should proud of this work and to hear that this all came from a song quote! Wow!

Of course there are minor problems, like for instance, several grammar issues, etc. I also noticed a little confusion with wording and awkward sesnse.

For this most part, this is a beautiful piece of writing that deserved praise. :)

 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback