The funny thing about silence is how it seems more resounding than shouting. And how it grows louder with the passage of time.
I am in a church, listening to the tinkering tatters of tentative footsteps who know they are an interruption. Someone laughs and another goes, “shhhhhhh” and I wonder whether the pain of silence comes more from the stifled noises caught permanently in your throat or from the panic of being blank. Staring into the faces of painted angels on cathedral ceilings, stoic and indifferent, I convince myself that whatever world had seemed open to me before, allowing me glimpses into a beauty I might be able to translate, was shut now, deliberately hidden away. Before there had been whispers—I know it—secrets of serenity spoken to me from shadows that I trusted. I want to feel betrayed by their silence (one angel with lazy, half-lidded eyes and a wicked little smirk), but some part of me has always known the fickleness of our universe’s favor. Some part of me knew, I think even then, that I’d end up with my ear pressed against a thick wooden door, making sense of muffled voices.
Coming upon a scene of ransacked heaven (the stoic angels now with mouths open in unheard screams, drowned out by the shrieks of demon delight), I wonder whether Lucifer felt the words catch in his throat like I do now, when he first felt the foreignness of evil spread like wild-fire inside him. Lucifer, angel of light, would have no word by which to call the darkness he saw there. I wonder whether this wasn’t, in fact, what really drove him down into hell—not God, not the Archangel Michael, but the weight of unspeakable words. And the indescribable sensation of watching your essence become something unrecognizable. I wonder if Lucifer was afraid, like I am now. I wonder if the words ever come back. Or if any of us are capable of finding ourselves again.
Because it happens in the strangest and most imperceptible speed, forgetting who you are and how to do the thing you love. There is no event, no spot you can point to on a map and say to your concerned loved ones—“Here, right there. This is when I stopped feeling like I could speak a word of truth.” At best, you describe empty space, the place where something used to be, the shape of what is missing.
If it were simple, if it felt less like suffocating, I might have been able to sputter a single, coherent sentence of assurance. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. If it had been possible, dear reader, I would have told you how much I missed you. I would have said how giving myself to you, whether you asked for it or not, made me feel a little more whole, made me fall in love all over again with the magnificence of human connection. But I didn’t. And the more time went by, the less I knew myself and the more incapable I became of facing you. Because the funny thing about silence is how at some point it stops being an absence of sound and instead becomes a cacophony of the words you might have said, but didn’t. Couldn’t.
But the only way to drown out those unspoken words, which somehow manage to sound the loudest in your head, is to utter a single sentence that breaks the quiet.
So here it is, dear reader. My utterance, an offering: I’m back.