I never really liked quiet. Noise means life, people around to talk to, to comfort you, to protect you. Quiet always seemed scary to me. Quiet meant alone. Alone could be terrifying.
After I got married, there was much debate about sleeping with the television on. I needed the television, I thought. I needed the noise to help me drift off to sleep. And some noise is helpful for that purpose. My kids use sound machines, largely to block out the noises of the world beyond their doors. Creaky old floors, dogs barking, parents engaged in heated discourse about the appropriate reaches of the 4th Amendment and the intended messages in Taylor Swift’s new single [I think its transparent, he credits her with more depth], and the thunderous, predawn grind of coffee beans.
But I used, or thought I needed, noise not to keep the other sounds out–I wanted them in. Man, just writing this sounds so depressing. I didn’t think of myself as a lonely or frightened young adult…but I was, sometimes. I thought that someone was going to break in, I thought a murderer was on the loose, I thought the sound of the television might make an intruder think there were people awake and he’d simply leave the way he came in, careful not to leave a mess and go on to choose another more quiet, less occupied target.
And to this day I have some strange and, I’m told, irrational fears. Let’s take corn stalks as an example. I have such fear of corn fields (that there are killers lurking among the stalks and that no one will hear my screams and they won’t find my body ’till the harvest) that I can’t drive through Midwestern farm country in the summer without my heart beating like I’m running the 100 meters against Usain Bolt. So yup, I still have some fears, but I am almost never alone.
I spend the majority of my waking hours in the third largest city in the U.S., second by population density. I live in less than 2000 square feet, with 4 other people and a dog. I can’t go to the bathroom without someone sitting on the floor next to me or popping in for a quick consult.
I have more talking momma, more talking with you, peez? (2 year old).
Mom, excuse me, I know you’re busy but I have to tell you what she just did to me. She is so rude, she…. (6 year old).
Mommy, did you know that the best and prettiest dinosaurs didn’t eat any vegetables? They just ate meat…so, um, Daddy says I have to eat the corn, but I’m just being a dinosaur tonight so I can’t really do that. (5 year old).
Meg, I need you out here. Or I’m gonna kill this kid. (38 year old).
So, now I like quiet. Quiet is nice. Except when it’s too quiet, of course. But alone and quiet, a few minutes on the shore of Lake Michigan on one of the first winter mornings in Chicago. Bright sun and light snow. It’s heaven. Until I start to miss the noise. I need the noise. I need the sound of these bathroom invaders, these believers in a limited-to-non-existent right to privacy, 4th Amendment be damned. I need them and I like the noise.