Magic Silence

Magic Silence

I think silence is such a pretty sound. Not the sound of nothing, like when you are absolutely alone and nothing is around. I mean the sound of your mind when you are sitting quietly. Content. Maybe people in the background are talking. Perhaps a TV is on. Maybe birds are chirping or rain is falling. But there is a peacefulness in your soul.  

I have not felt that in a long time. 

I work with kids. Sad kids, needy kids, rude kids, kids who will smile and joke and make the entire class laugh all while avoiding direct eye contact with anyone. Kids who wear a mask over their numbed pain. Kids who use memes and other stupid things to hide the shining desperation in their eyes. They smile so wide that it hurts, it screams. “See me! See me! Please just see me!” all without saying a word. Their insides are charred and broken from unseen wars. 

These kids are too young for this.  

I want to carry them with me to a forest or a field and have us all close our eyes and breathe fresh air and appreciate our beautiful existence.  

I want them to feel that silence. It can cure, almost like magic. 

My kids would laugh. A bitter and sad sound to mock my foolish ideas because magic doesn’t exist. Fairytales and happy endings don’t exist. But they don’t know that fairytales helped me reach adulthood. 

So instead, I play violin music, and touch their shoulder, and tell them they are special. It’s like giving a lollipop to a kid in a war-ravaged country, but have you ever seen their eyes? The way they light up like I could somehow guarantee them lifelong happiness? It would curl the corners of your soul. 

That silence holds so many things with it. Like love. 

I used to never think about love. Never thought it applied to me.  

I’ll never forget when a guy mentioned that he would like to marry me, though he would never be able to sleep with me or even kiss me because we weren’t that type of love. I couldn’t even feel love. The way he’d said it too. So casual. Not a trace of anger or mocking in his words. He had meant them, and he believed them.  

You’re not capable of feeling love, he said. 

I think about that often.  

Am I a psychopath? What am I? I love my family. I love my kids. Never a boyfriend. Never a first kiss.  

I had a crush on a boy once with gorgeous dark hair and pale eyes. Why? There wasn’t a reason, but I was convinced that he was good. Even when he wasn’t. He never spoke to me, but was just another self-obsessed individual trying to survive, searching for someone to help frame his picture of himself. He is normal. 

But in my silence, when I am content and happy, I think myself in love. With what? Not myself and certainly not another person. 

Would I be okay without the people I love?  

Yes, I think so.  

There is a man I think I love. I know he loves me because of his eyes. The way he smiles. It makes me uncomfortable to think of someone being in love with me, opening doors for me, buying me cans of chicken soup when I’m sick, and reading my stories and telling me they’re good even when they’re not.  

Why does it make me uncomfortable? Because I can’t feel love? Because if something were to happen to him I think I would be okay?  

So many people want this. I guess I can understand that. It’s nice.  

Is it because I am able to hypnotize myself into this silent, content state? Where nothing outside the walls of my mind can affect me? And I am alone, but not empty. I am the opposite of empty. Is this what Buddha felt?  

I don’t know what Buddha’s silence was like, but with mine, my mind is not empty. I think about the universe. So many things are wrong. So many people are angry and depressed about the wrong, but is it not beautiful? I think it’s beautiful.  

The stars, the seas, and all the tiny people who are so insignificant yet so unique. Some are evil, and some are good, and some just want to live. I want to help them all, but maybe I will just help a few. And that’s good enough to make me satisfied.  

I appreciate the existence and stop thinking about everything that’s wrong and everything that could make me angry because what does that anger ever accomplish? It only leads to depression. So I thank God for a chance to do some good. To help my kids and the man who loves me with what love I can feel. And I trust God will look after them too.  

If they knew, they might laugh and mock because fairytales don’t exist, but fairytales are what helped me get to adulthood. 

Photo by Meritt Thomas




The first thing I want to do is call my sister. But I don’t. I just stare at the picture.  

My stomach rises up to my throat, then it drops down to my feet and drags everything else along with it. But I don’t feel like crying. The pain isn’t anything new. I’m just a little bit more aware of it than I had been a few moments before.  

Sometimes I think I have days when I don’t think about him.   

But I don’t think that’s true.  

We were supposed to get married, this little voice in my head whispers. It was supposed to be us.  

But it’s not.  

Those words reverberate through my mind.  

It’s not. It’s not. It’s not.  

So, it was her birthday today. They traveled. They drank. They kissed. They took this adorable little picture that all of their friends liked and commented on and sang the praises of young love, happiness, and a new life.  

I’ve never met her. I bet she’s bubbly and kind and always smiles, just like in her pictures. I bet me and her would become good friends.  

Him? I can’t stand him. We always argue and can’t find a thing in common and never hang out anymore because we’re not really friends because I care way too much about everything in his life, and it’s annoying to both of us, and he doesn’t get it and I get so angry at him because he doesn’t understand.  

I take in a deep breath, and I like the picture. I comment some basic little congratulatory phrase that she probably won’t even read.  

My insides have settled back into their places. They should. It’s been a couple of years. I’m not going to tell anyone about this. No one knows my secrets but my siblings, but they’re not going to find out about this either.  

“Ya know, pain is really good for your writing,” Jay once told me. I can remember his lips smacking from that gum.   

“But I don’t even want to like him.” I argued. “I want someone else. Someone better. I can’t even figure out why I would like him.”  

“I’m telling you, it’s for your writing. You’d always wanted a good writing career. You know how David only wrote Psalms when he was in trouble? People don’t really write when everything’s good. And even then, it’s not like it’s good.”  

I hadn’t known how to explain myself. It wasn’t like that. I thought I always wrote the same. Good days. Bad days. All those little days in between that I can’t even remember. My art wasn’t affected by my emotions because I portrayed the world onto my art. Not myself.  

Is that bad?  

“I’m not the same as David,” I finally said.  

“But it’s the Bible,” he whined. “Go ahead and try to write a poem or something.” Jay grinned at me. I could see the massive wad of gum squashed between his teeth. “I bet it will be your best one. Everyone will love it, and you’ll feel better. Just like David.”  

That was the last time I’d talked to my little brother about this. Part of me wanted to think that he’d understand one day, but the other part of me hoped that he never did.  

Besides, he’s just a kid.  

Macy’s more understanding, her and her stitched up little heart. Social media was probably just a scrapbook of bad memories for her.

We used to listen to each other complain, and then I realized it was complaining. Useless, miserable, futile complaining. It did more harm than good. And it was annoying, like we were trying to comfort each other while also competing for who was most miserable.  

I still listen to her, but I resolved that I would never complain to her again. I’d never complain to anyone again. Putting sadness out there only makes it grow.   

I was going to keep mine inside, to swallow it and make it disappear.  

But, it’s been years.  

I know about how he used to like me. I know about how he tried to pressure me into confessing it because he was too scared to say anything first. I know about how he used to talk about me, how he always set girls up with the people that I might have dated so I’d never end up with them, how he tried to try to date other people to get over me because he was convinced he wasn’t good enough. His friends told me, and I had laughed and pretended not to believe them, even as they pushed me to talk to him.  

I wanted him to say something first, to like me so much that he had to confront me, maybe not even say anything but just kiss me. I wanted him to fight for me. I wanted a reason to like him.  

I remember his stares.  

I always thought we were soulmates, that somehow we would end up together.  

I’m looking at other pictures, at other happy couples, at beautiful single people, and I don’t really care. I’ve never really cared about being with anyone but him.  

We’ve never even dated. Never even held hands. We’ve never done anything but stare at each other from across the room.   

He looked so happy in that picture.  

I wonder if he’s really happy, if he really feels the way that he talks, the way that he looks in this picture where he’s staring at her.  

Because he still stares at me. 

Published in The Iris Review, Spring 2018
Photo: Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn