Sometimes I get this craving for an abstract sort of silence, a silence that’s not achievable merely through the reduction of sound: I want a kind of silence that’s inside the mind as well as outside of it, a diminution of this particular internal noise; this noise makes my mind feel cramped, like how a loud TV can make a small room feel even smaller.
This noise exists, mainly, right behind the eyeballs. It feels like its spinning around each of my optic nerves in hot, sparking, yellow rings. And behind these rings, my brain feels like concrete, or like some heavy liquid of neutral temperature has been injected into it and is seeping into all the folds, all the empty spaces, and heavying everything up. The segmented plates of my braincase feel like they’re closing like a beetle’s shell, disallowing any light or flow.
At these times it feels like it would be a relief to not have a brain; to be able to take it out and put it aside and lay down in the dark for while with an unburdened skull. I could leave the plates of bone separated like a pistachio shell and let a fresh wind in to scour the inner walls.
With this noise it’s hard to concentrate on anything. Actually, that’s not true. I can concentrate easily, almost too easily, but it’s hard to sense any depth in anything. Some fundamental faculty of perception is being drowned out. Whether I’m reading, or playing a game, or writing, the only conception I have of the thing I’m engaged with is of its uppermost, most superficial layer. In a distant way I can tell there is depth there, just like in a distant way I understand the vacuumingly vast tracts between stars, but I can’t feel the depth. But this shallow level still consumes my attention utterly.
Most simply: I’ll read a sentence that would otherwise move me, but be unmoved, yet be totally consumed. Or I’ll stare at a game hollow-eyed until a dying battery or guilt or the clock declaiming an absurd morning hour makes me turn it off; or I’ll sit at the keyboard and type the first word that my unconscious conjures over and over again; always some small selfish word: “My my my my my.”
Sometimes I feel this noise like a weary tightness in my jaw, or a dull, thudding almost-pain that drops at an incline from my sinuses down to the roof of my mouth.
(Sometimes this noise makes attributing every little ache and pain that it brings or may bring as engaging as doing anything else.)
There are many ways in which this noise can come in. These ways feel alchemical, mystical, esoteric, arcane. Sometimes I wonder if it’s my ultimate destiny to catalog them. I walk from room to room generating cumbersome theories about the noise, thinking that if, say, I keep my body at this temperature for such-and-such a time, and then suddenly bundle myself up, then I increase my chances of inducing the noise by X percentage; or that playing a particularly number-heavy game early in the day and thus using up my analytical energy prematurely increases my chances by this amount; or if I drink a sufficiently uncold Coke after lunch time the noise will likely arrive along with a spate of insomnia.
Believe me, I could write for ages about these theories I have. I’ve imagined living on some tropical island, with beautiful billowing pirate treasure clouds turning gold against a blue early evening sky. In this fantasy I live in a strange house built of dark wood, high on a bluff that looks out over the sea. My house is big, and my study is cantilevered out over the bluff’s edge, hanging over the water below, which churns slowly against the rocky bluff, intermingling shades of sapphire and teal, bottle-glass and leafshadow.
Every day for hours I write in cramped antiquarian cursive my particular theories about this noise, about its onset and the way it feels and what I think it means. I work at this like a job or a devouring vocation. Then, at the end of the day, when the sun is golden through my study’s massive floor-to-ceiling windows, preparing gingerly to step into the ocean as into a hot bath, I put all the pages I’ve accumulated that day into a wooden box, a finely-made but unadorned box made of the same dark wood as my house. This box is cleverly made so that by putting the lid into place I create a watertight seal as strong as if I’d nailed it shut.
And in the middle of my study’s floor there’s a hatch, and next to the hatch a pully arm with a long rope coiled beside it and a hand crank on its spine. I open the hatch, and loko through the hole into the ocean a hundred feet below. I hook the sealed box to the rope, and lower it down through the hatch. Then I turn the crank, feeding more rope out from the coil, and more and more, turning until not only is the box completely submerged in the ocean, but it hits the sandy bottom beneath the waves. I press a button on the pully that somehow disengages the rope and reel it back up, so that the wooden box lays alongside all the hundreds of other days’ boxes, arrayed like the wordless headstones of some sunken city’s royal cemetery or soldier memorial.
But I’ll tell you what the worst feeling to feel during this noise is. The worst feeling is to have a skull full of this noise, and for it to be dark out, and for there to be too many lights on in my room, and then I look out through a window into the darkness and see virtually nothing except for a wavering reflection of the too-lit room behind me, and my shadowy self standing in front of it, looking at me without eyes.