I was the sound mind of the bunch, at least from my perspective. Mr. and Mrs. Lory spent the entire ferry ride peering into the water with wide virgin eyes as if they’d never seen water spoiled by moss scum before, Johnson Abby leaned propped against a wooden chair with his head back as if posing for Vogue, and Mrs. Felton would not shut up about the latest health reports on apple trees in the state of New York–“They say there’s a new breed of worm that is decimating the Macintoshes!”–while her husband, Mr. Felton, appeared to be dozing off while standing. If anyone approached my level of sanity, it was the young unnamed woman seated in the last row of bench seats. She appeared to be quite amused about my situation, and her eyes were the color of the sea and reminded me of my favorite brand of canned tuna. Not that I would ever say such a thing aloud of course. But I did love tuna.
These are all texts that begin with the phrase “I was the sound.” I wrote using this prompt for 50 consecutive days.
I was the sound of you. I was your first cry, your first laugh, your first word. I was every moan and sigh and grumble. I was the shriek, the yell and the shout. Every utterance was I, every ramble, every rant and rave and babble. I was your voice, the rise and fall of it, already there before it was found. I was both the desperate tone and the calm verve. And I was your silence. I was there in the best nights when your breath was slow and relaxed and mindful and sleep took all the noises away, and I was there those nights when your breath was heavy and wet when loss screamed the end of the world in your ear. I was the whisper of hope and the tremble of doubt. I was the shared ideas and the argued conversation. I was the consoling talk and the encouraging response. I was the love you expressed to her lying in bed on a Tuesday in March with the sun on the sheets. And I was the grief of a million goodbyes; every one of those, I was there. I was your sound.
I was the sound of humanity, in the final moments, evaporating from existence. The boy heard; he was the last one left. He stood upon a gray hill with his Tigger held against his face, his eyes covered, so there was only darkness and the final sound. Close stifled breath, the warmth of an old stuffed animal, a little boy clutching imagination–ahh, humanity, you dear attempt–and then he was gone and no one remained to hear.
I was the sound of dishonesty. You thought yourself not the source? Those people you cursed were simply echoes; they were not me the true sound. I came from you. I came from your side-eye glances at the world, when you judged those in power and high places. I was the sound your sleeves made when you raised your crooked finger. Oh if it was not straight, but it was not! It bent back toward you. I was the sound of your hollering and your online jibber jabber. Did you think the Trump man dishonest? Oh yes, he was most definitely that. But where did you think his dishonesty began? Who bred the means that rose him where he was? Lower your finger, dear kin; I know why you point it. But listen to me now; listen to the sound of yourself. There is a veil across your eyes that smells of anger and venom, and until this veil is removed, your dishonesty will remain equal to his, and more of him will come. I do not blame you, I am sound and have no fingers to point, I only beg you hear me. Please take the time to hear me now. Put down your phone. Dear god, put down the phone.
I was the sound of a monarch butterfly carried aloft by continental winds and submitted to fate; toward that fateful day when all its wings and all the wings of its brothers and sisters are swept into a tray of dust and feathery crumbs and discarded; and thrown away, the wings and crumbs are uplifted once more into the jet streams–we all have submitted long ago, little do we know, and wait to be swept up.
I was the sound the man heard at four minutes past three o’clock on the first Thursday in July of 2021. He did not recognize me, for I was the death knell, and no one knows the sound of their own death. Do you know the last sound you will ever hear? I hope it be as fascinating as me, for I was unique and unprecedented and unfamiliar. One would think the best last sound would be something familiar, perhaps a baby’s cry that reminds one of his children, or the voice of a wife or sibling. Even the honk of a car horn, though likely frightening the pour soul about to be collided with, might at least bring a cheery memento of a childhood bicycle horn or a scooter owned in college. But no, I was nothing familiar or guessed at. I was more brilliant. I was stunning. I was life changing.
I was the sound of indecision, static, white noise, thinking somehow that I could decide my own future. Pshhht. I would have been better served just getting on with it. Pompous, cocky ego…
I was the sound of my ego deflating. I was a scream trailing off. And, sometimes, I still hear the echoes of me.
I was the sound of that which was around me. I was the sound of the battles that waged inside. Neither was louder than the other, because both sounds were I. Have you heard the young woman’s story of the hawk and the field? She sat in the grass weeping when the bird landed on a fence post beside her. She heard its talons gripping the wood, and its feathers ruffling, and the wind when it beat its wings and ascended back into the sky. “I was no longer weeping, neither inside nor out,” she said. “The hawk changed my sound with his.”
I was the sound of a broken heart; aortic gears clacking slower and slower as the machine took its final turn. When my heart stopped, from rust and wear and final malfunction, there was a great grinding but no sparks; the heart was damp and heavy. In my heart’s last efforts it sheared off what bolts kept it tied to me for so long, before it slipped into its final position over there, on the floor, gray and leaking. I have attempted oil to revive it; I have hammered and hit it with all my remaining force. But I am afraid all my power came from its turning wheels and sprockets, so what might I possibly do, but abandon my heart, and walk away with whatever remains? I do leave it; I leave with no grace, no confidence, no ambition. Something effortless and unmade now turns within me.