16 April, 2012

Finding & Losing Your Voice

Just finished: On Photography by Sontag
Reading: A Room of One's Own by Woolf
On Deck: Twilight by Gay (with 100% less vamps & werewolves than in similarly-titled novels)
Recent impulse buy: The Horse Latitudes by Muldoon in hardback for $6
New & good: Valdeon, a cheese from Spain & serious challenge to my love of Fourme d'Ambert
Listening to: John Cage (fits well during illness)

A woman is singing a rising gospel song down at the bus stop outside my window, oblivious to the rain, the manic traffic on Southside, or the rattle of the air compressor in the construction zone out front. And I suppose that's as good as anywhere to pick up the story. It's a dark Monday, but aren't they all? Except this time I'm enjoying things from my tiny bed thanks to some sort of Springtime sinus mess that's finally left me literally speechless after about 48 hours and hacking like a patient in a TB sanatorium. Not quite Mimi, but then, there's seems no Rodolfo to be found for me either.

I've been away from these parts for quite a while and I believe that's been a good thing.  I'm not entirely sure what I'm doing back here; maybe it's due to losing my audible voice and just wanting to be able to heard somehow. You don't realize how dependent you are on your voice, how much you really speak, until times like this. And you don't understand the power of silence within the crowd. By Saturday night my voice was shot, but I'd gone out with friends and done my best to persevere and be social, especially since I was blessed with meeting some new folks whose company and spirits I truly enjoyed. 

We ended up back at my friends' apartment building, a looming, ramshackle old home in the Highlands that, like so many, have been carved up for modern living and abandoned to the elements in favor of easy, cheap rents. People gathered around the fire pit in the small back yard, the group ebbing & flowing from hidden passages to neighboring properties, and settled in for a long, pleasant night. At this point, having introduced myself to newcomers and refreshed greetings with others, I went silent and enjoyed the warmth of the fire, the smell of the smoke, and listening to the leaves in the breeze and the new faces around me. 

After a few hours, one man from the big city who has deigned to spend the summer in our little town and who kept goading me into telling stories earlier in the evening because he liked the new sound of my voice finally was silent enough himself to notice the stillness in that moment. It didn't last: "Scratchy voice lady (the only way he referred to me all evening), you're not talking anymore. Why aren't you talking? I like the way your voice sounds. Are you not talking because it hurts? Say something! You know my sister's voice sounds just like yours but all the time(the fifth time he'd mentioned this), so I feel some sort of kinship with you." All the words tumbled forth towards me in rapid succession through the wood smoke. I responded with more silence and a facial expression of waning bemusement and slight weariness (though sometimes my attempts at such expressions fail and tip into general annoyance). 

"Does your throat hurt?" he asked again, squinting his eyes and tipping his head to one side at the question as if speaking to an uncomprehending child. "Why won't you talk? You're so quiet."

"Of course her throat hurts," said one of the other residents, a small, slight young woman who I had bonded with over a mutual preference for film over digital photography earlier in the evening. "And I say her presence alone is more than enough," she said, staring across the fire at the man while rubbing my shoulder reassuringly before returning to tend the fire.

So, today, I'm keeping myself home to try and finally kick whatever this is that's ailing me. And to avoid anyone else asking me "What?" when I try to speak. Sadly, they aren't kidding, just not thinking.

Paid work aside for the time being, I've been writing, but it's still a bit scatter shot as I continue to settle in and get try to sort my balance here. Really have to find a system to catalog and order all the ideas. I think moving out of the center (living at work is not simply a metaphor for me) and into my own space, despite my finite financial resources for the foreseeable future, is a big part of that balance & order. And I've been doing some of this. Some creative projects have been percolating in my brain. And I've been getting a start on being a creative & activ(ist) member of my broader community.

So, yes, I'm back, for better or worse. And I'll be plumbing depths of great and lesser fathom again. Thanks for bearing with me, even if all y'all insist on remaining silent. Your presence is sufficient.

No comments: