Saturday, November 18, 2017


Silence has a weight to it, a heaviness. You can feel it pressing against your skin. Wrapping you in its hushed embrace. The silence of empty spaces could be suffocating with its weight.

She felt that weight now as she sat in her mother's house. The oppression of nothing. There was no television to turn on to cut the silence. No radio to play just to have something to distract her. Her mother had been practically deaf for the last ten years and as she did not enjoy those things anymore she had gotten rid of them. She preferred to read books, not television captions. She could only feel the deep bass and did not enjoy music through a thrumming in her chest. So there were no noisy distractions left in her house.

There wasn't much of anything, actually. If there was such a thing as an anti-hoarder her mother would be it. Anything she found unnecessary she got rid of. It wasn't this new "sparks joy" movement that had taken hold. It was strictly a genuine distaste of things. Wait, was that an ascetic? Was that right? Monastic would work too. Except her mother was not religious. That would be one of the things she discarded as unnecessary years ago.

So she sat in her mother's silent, empty house feeling the weight of nothingness sitting on her chest. Making it hard to take a deep breath. She got up and started pacing around the living room. There wasn't much furniture. A small couch and matching side chair. An end table and one small bookshelf. Her mother's Kindle sat on the end table and the bookshelf was now mostly empty. She had been surprised when her mother went to digital books but when she showed her how she could make the text as large as she needed to read comfortably it made sense. An electronic gadget that made print large was much easier and caused less clutter than a shelf of large print books.

She had a tablet she could use to text her children and grandchildren. Which her grandchildren loved. No phone calls for their hip grandmother. She texted. Though she always texted in complete, perfectly spelled, and punctuated sentences and she didn't use the phone because she couldn't stand the interface between her hearing aids and the phone. And once she figured out that she could just discard the things she had to listen to, she discarded her hearing aids as well.

That was her mother. If she deemed it unnecessary it was gone. She did not believe in keeping things to be polite. She didn't believe in gifts at all. Giving or receiving. She needed nothing and felt that if others did need something they should buy it, not wait for a holiday and ask for someone else to buy it for them. She wasn't completely hard-hearted, she gave the grandchildren money. Or more correctly she gave them the receipt from the deposits in to their college funds. That money would be released as tuition payments when they started school or given to them outright at 26 if they chose another path. It was their money, but she did not think they could spend it responsibly until then.

Her mother was not a sentimental woman. She was practical. Above everything else she was practical.

It had been hard when she was younger. Other mothers were so very different than her own. They always seemed to be overflowing with things. Purses with endless supplies. Snacks, tissues, pens, decks of cards. It was like watching Mary Poppins when she would see her friend's mothers start to dig through purses to find something. Her own mother carried a handbag. But it had spaces for the things she felt she needed. She never dug around looking for her car keys because they were always snapped in to place with a key chain designed to fit in the handbag. She never dumped the contents out looking for a quarter for a parking meter because the quarters were in her change purse slipping in to a zippered pouch in the center of the bag.

But it wasn't just that other mothers were over flowing with things, they seemed to be overflowing with emotions. Hugs that would envelop you. Hands fussing with your hair, or straightening your clothes. Deep curiosity about every detail of your day. "How was school, did you pass your math test? Did Jeremy ask you to the dance? Did Sarah like the cookies you made for her birthday?" They wanted details. She could not imagine her mother caring at all about high school intricacies. She could barely tolerate attending parent teacher conferences.

She had been so embarrassed her freshman year when her mother had met with her homeroom teacher. She had wanted to know what grades she had in each subject and then got up to leave. When Mrs. Robertson had told her there were other things to discuss her mother had looked at her and said, "I don't think there are." and then left the room. That wasn't the part that had embarrassed her. It had been how Mrs. Robertson had treated her for the rest of the year. She had become overly kind and solicitous to her. As if she needed attention and love that she had been deprived of. As if she were a freak. She found the extra attention to be distasteful and cloying.

She walked in to her mother's bedroom. Knowing that this would be met with a disapproving glare. A bedroom was a private space. Not to be breached by those uninvited. There had been no crawling in to her mother's bed after a nightmare. No lazy Sunday mornings curled up together watching TV. Not even watching her mother dress or do her makeup to learn how such things were done. It was not allowed. So she felt a little guilty standing in the doorway now. It was a breach and she knew it. 

There was a neatly made double bed. A plain tan comforter with two pillows. No fancy duvet. No decorative throw pillows. A bedside table with a lamp and a small glass of water was the only other extra item in the room. She went to her mother's closet and opened the door. Clothes were hung neatly, arranged by type and color. All of her pants together lightest to darkest, the same with her blouses and the handful of sweaters she had. There were a handful of empty hangers at the front of the closet waiting to be refilled after laundry was done. Her shoes were neatly lined up along the bottom of the closet, with a space in the middle missing. Even though she did not know what shoes her mother had been wearing she could tell by looking at the space that it must be a pair of loafers a shade of tan that was darker than nude but not quite light brown.

Those shoes were the ones that were gone.

Leaving a hole.

She closed the closet door.

The silence was like a weight.

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