To make silence more palatable for you, she sweetens it. And gets immediate results. The next day, you’re sitting beside her on the gritty shoreline of Red Shell Beach just as you have many times before, but now with absolutely no conversation between you and her. You say nothing of it being too quiet, of this feeling awkward, of this being boring. Instead, you delight in the notes of maple syrup and coconut mixing with the hypnotic surf that seem now to stroke the shores of your mind.
Soon you’re asking for more, craving her silence for the sweetness she has infused it with. This eagerness to partake in silence is exactly the kind of result she was hoping for. Now she can gradually reduce the sweetness, encouraging you to acquire a taste for unadulterated silence—to develop, hopefully, an appreciation of the nuances within different kinds of quietness.
Over the following weeks, as she dials back the sweetness, you notice the character of her silence changing, but you mention nothing about this.
Until your senses discern a substantial shift.
‘Your silence has a firm softness to it, like thick velvet is draped over us. There’s also a slight purpleness to it,’ you tell her after a thirty-minute session at the Hamrockery, where you just lay wordlessly next to each other in swaying hammocks—yours set to “sluggish,” hers “only slightly.”
She’s stunned by your words. They defer her delight that at last she can spend time with you lounging here without chitchat or music.
My silence doesn’t have those sorts of tactile and chromatic qualities, she thinks. I’d know by now if my silence were like purple velvet.
But, afraid that disputing your claims would be off-putting, she says nothing.
While in the kitchen making dinner that evening, she thinks over your remark and becomes convinced that what you described was a hallucination; your other senses must be overcompensating for the diminished sweetness. She concludes that once you’re accustomed to silence without additives, these sensations will subside to leave you with the subtleties of plain silence. Glimmers of contentment. Undercurrents of subdued exuberance. Mellow existential wonderment. Transient wholeness. Dreamy nostalgia.
But you continue to comment on aspects of her silence that she has never experienced: hints of cardamom and lemon, twinkling specs like tiny brassy fireflies, fleeting tassel-y tingles, wafts of humid air.
So she pays closer attention to the silence she shares with you, in case there’s something to what you’re saying.
Then, noticing nothing akin to what you’ve described, she starts experimenting with the composition of silence, in attempts to amplify any faint sensations she hasn’t picked up on. Systematically she tests a variety of modifications. A dash of ennui, a pinch then a sprinkling more stillness, a smidge then a thrush less self-absorption, a twist of worldly detachment.
Still, she feels none of the sensations you’ve reported, but she does begin to find fragments of stories within the silence. Glimpses of who peruses the catalogue of inconsequentials and how the bay of attention fills as the tide of workplace drama comes in. Why being a patience coach is such an important profession. When to go sit for a spell in the dreaming chair. What happens when ego pumps become commonplace.
Maybe you’re on to something here, she muses. Maybe I’ve just been wading in the shallows all this time. Or have I been too far out to appreciate the shoals?