I looked back two blocks later, hands chapped by the iced wind, grasping my cellphone. My voice streaming, louder and louder while she listened, strained above the Madison Avenue engines and horns. I turned around, and it all fell silent. My voice, the traffic, the echos off the buildings fell away, fell silent for just a moment as I turned. Half expecting him to still be standing there. Half expecting to go running back to him.
A block too late.
The horns blare and I didn't miss a word scrambling to tell her what just happened. What just happened? My throat feels scratched but I toss the hot chocolate in the garbage pail rather than take a sip. Tourists shout at each other as I pass by the NY Public Library and even the lion statue roars too loudly. My voice gets lost. I hang up the phone. The lobby of school has students milling around with the fervor of the first week of classes. Too many. Too much. Too loud.
Classmates tripping over each other to make first-class impressions with their lengthy comments, a chorus and a round and it's all a hallow echo of voices inside a tin can. The screech of the subway against the rails and the roar of the train car as it travels through the tunnels and spits me out in a sea of people in Brooklyn. The laughter of roommates like juice glasses breaking. I put on headphones and the sound of a fan, turn the app volume up, and fall asleep in my coat, in my clothes.
When I wake, it's dark still. It's quiet. The sound of my suitcase rolling down the sidewalks stands out against the silence. The quiet hum of the plane as it takes off for Portland. Her arms as she retrieves me, her Prius' quiet, quiet engine, her pup's soft nose against the palm of my hand. Quiet, gentle, soft, calm, quiet, quiet, quiet. The mostly empty office building, the glass of red wine, the way he murmured, "the fam's back together again," the peach walls of my old bedroom as I put myself to bed, quiet, quiet, quiet.
I sang, I danced, I laughed, I discovered Pandora's "No Diggity" channel, I remembered how fiercely I love these women. I remembered how fiercely I am loved. It might have been loud, and I might have been the loudest, but it was still the quiet I needed. The hours we spent on that couch together. Sitting, reading, watching, eating, drinking, cuddling, sleeping, together and together and together. Quiet.
The Portland airport had rocking chairs in front of wide open windows. A few straggling passengers who came despite canceled flights and two delays and we finally boarded. I watched the sunset from the runway, from the assent, from the plane window as we broke through the clouds.
JKF is loud and noisy. NYC is loud and noisy. But I am still quiet.
The quiet settles easily. I carry it around lightly. Pack it in my bag as if it's just one more book.
I burry myself in books and piano notes amid long measures of rests. Turn my bedroom lights off early, curl up in the window of my hotel room during the conference, cross the street to find a coffee shop with fewer people, wake to see the sunrise, sit alone on the train ride home.
I wait to see when it will let go. Soon, I think, it's so light, it can't hang on for long. It's not the angry radio songs or the late night confessions, spilling out like marbles rolling across a metal counter. It's not the sound of my feet racing across the frozen ground or dewy grass. It's not even the dull hum of the weather channel, local on the 8s for the nineteenth time. It must not be much, I think. It's so quiet and still and light.
And yet. It remains.
Loyal. Steady. Unassuming. Constant.
I only want quiet these days. It think it means "this is not the right..." but I am realizing I am wrong. This time, the quiet might be the strength, the certainty, the falling away of the noise, my noise, the city's noise, all the noise. The falling away of the noise when I turned around on that second block corner. It might not matter whether he still stood there or whether I would have gone running. It is the noise that fell away. It is the quiet that matters, that perhaps, means the most.