Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Sound of Silence

Both of them knew those two kinds of silences extremely well – over several years of having known each other, they had been through them often.

The first one was of the good kind; the type that is observed when a person sits by the sea and there isn't really a need or an urge to spew words into the air – they both liked this silent intimacy where the other would perform the function of being the sea; neither one needed to know whether the sea was thinking about the ordeals it has been through to transport its waves to this shore, or whether it was thinking of numerous ships and trawlers and submarines churning over and under its belly constantly vying to divert its attention from the tranquil above, or whether it was not thinking anything at all and was merely basking contentedly in the sunrise and sunset simultaneously occurring at different points of its expanded mind and soul. Both of them could be mutually content by the fact that the other, the sea, was merely there, in close proximity to be touched and felt, that it didn't mind how many times you walked away from the shore and came back, or what is going through your mind, if anything at all, or till when everything will last. Sometimes there was music – like winds on the shore – which they both could feel, but not necessarily discern; after all, there was no need to tax their minds amidst the prevailing tranquillity. Music has a strange property of latching on to memories, like sunflowers latching on to the sun – different forms and compositions of music almost always end up pointing to specific, distant memories. Both of them never needed to discern the vowels and consonants or the artists and albums when familiar music played; the sound itself could take them back to their cherished memories from the past, good or bad. And so this silence used to continue – irrespective of how long it lingered for, both never thought about the actual span of time in minutes and seconds, or about who will break it; there never was a discomforting feeling in its existence or disappearance.

The other silence was of the terrible kind; the type that would probably ensue if two people were made to sit in a confession box, not knowing who plays the sinner and who plays the priest, or whether there was a sin involved at all. Voluntarily playing either one implied acknowledging that there was really something wrong, making the silence even more awkward. It also had its other inherent dangers – both of them were reclusive enough to hide inside some sort of invisible shells when they had actually decided to either play the sinner or the priest; talking it out as the sinner was not their forte, nor extracting it out as the priest. Hiding behind these invisible shells, they had mastered the art of behaving as if everything was normal, and still leaving the environment non-intimate and uncomfortable enough for the other. And so, if only one of them would decide to play the sinner or the priest, the other was perpetually left confused, guessing if there was a sin involved at all. The resulting silence was rather ominous, raging a strange tension between the two minds, each struggling to break-away from it. When music played in such moments, the silence would become uglier, almost mocking the state of their mute, repressed presence. And so this silence used to continue – either one, or both of them would be in their invisible shells, and the mere passage of time would become an ordeal.

And they understood these silences, because they understood each other fairly well. When they met after a rather long gap on a hot, sultry evening, the initial chirrups didn't take much time to settle into a comfortable silence interspersed with their memory-latched playlist. The tiny traces of alcohol and smoke in the air probably aided in alleviating this silence to mystical proportions – after all, it wasn't often that life or destiny offered them such leisure, or luxury, or both. The past, rather, had been generous in offering their relationship a plethora of emotions to deal with – friendship, love, hatred, and more often than not, a cruel mixture of more than one of those. They had often felt exposed to the other; either their flaws or their virtues obscenely appearing in some odd, fragile moments, leading them to clumsily fidget their way through. However, through all of those moments, they had tried and tested the other, to generally no specific conclusions, other than, maybe, attributing more human qualities to the other.

And so the comfortable silence of the evening lingered on. At one point, they were sitting close enough and, if they were lovers, they might even have kissed each other; at another point, they were lying down far apart, the sound of some familiar guitar strings from the speakers transporting them to a distant land in their common memories where they were once again close enough. The silence itself was familiar to them; it led them, not necessarily or particularly in that order, into reminiscing the past, analyzing the present, or just staring contentedly in space to respect the moment, and one could say that time flowed like poetry, waiting to be penned down in words.

And it so happened that in another moment, one of them detected an oddity. It was a familiar one, of noticing the invisible shell on the other, slowly transforming the universe into a nauseating silence – the one that required guessing if something was wrong. And past experiences were evidence enough that probity was as ineffective between the two of them as using paper scissors to cut through metal. One couldn't pin-point exactly what the silence conveyed about the other's thoughts – probably a memory rising from the ashes and disturbingly invading the brain, or one of the numerous possible futures crassly conjuring itself as an ominous prediction, or just the abstractness of the present suddenly evoking a distaste, or maybe nothing at all.

And so the comfortable silence of the evening had managed to alter itself into a repugnant stillness that both knew so well, and detested to the core. And yet, it lingered on – one knew that there was no way to break past the shell of the other, and that playing the sinner or the priest will only make the silence more awkward. The fluidity of their brains as a result of the intoxication of previous several hours probably caused their cells to overwork, and one could say that time stopped flowing, and a poetry was killed. One of them probably had a reason for the shell, and the other probably thought of this strange juxtaposition of the two silences rolled into the same evening, and the vagaries of life.