In case you missed it, click on October is Coming to catch up on what’s going on here on Waltbox this month. The next guest post is by Bill Pearse, an American writer taking a mid-career sabbatical in Germany with his family. He writes memoir, poetry, and travelogue. If you like his writing as much as I do, click like and let him know in the comments. Or better yet, visit him and let him know in person.
Lament for Misplaced Sounds
by Bill Pearse
He made himself small and sat on the window ledge wrapped like an egg, arms around his knees, watching from above. And he saw himself in this pose though he lay inside with the window wide open — and could not remember, and thought it odd, it was open like that all night, that time of year the windows should remain shut.
When the sound first came it was like a needle, a splinter, a small thing that disappeared as soon as it started, a shrill sound that could be an owl or the chirp of a night bird crying out or a half note from a penny whistle blown by a gnome with a long face, a face like his own.
And the sound came at irregular times, loose orbits in the dark, and he hated it for he could not identify the source and could not turn it off, yet could not live without it either, but longed instead for the moments it came for he was committed to the sound, it cried for him with such force.
He imagined holding her down until the kicking stopped, that was a sound — and the cold tolls of the church bells in the dark, how they rippled like raindrops on the water, in and out they fell, each one fading as a new one took its place.
And as he lay in bed like this he passed between worlds of the awake and the dreaming, his body a sword fighter’s stance — one arm in the air, the other by his hip — legs to the side like a flag waiting for the wind.
The tinnitus in his head was the sound of rain changing to snow, snow changing to rain, a constant reel of white noise — and beneath the sheets he heard his own heartbeat, the crunch of footsteps in the snow, the squeak of the springs in the bed frame below, gears turning as a clock can in its maddening pace.
And he knew now he was awake for his mind told him so: the sound of hearts beating beneath the floor, portals behind walls leading to distant worlds, people possessed by aliens pointing, the shrill gurgling sound they made its way inside him, too.
He passed above the treetops conscious of his own dreaming, houses dotting the valleys below, reminding him of train sets he constructed as a kid, their tiny lights inside.
All of it was a plaything, a world of endless possibilities playing upon the mind. And though he saw the homes below he passed above them unnoticed, for they could not see him in this state, he was left behind dreaming.
And he thought of all the lives he lived, including the made up ones he constructed, but felt an absence of meaning still, that he had lived and not lived at the same time — there was something he had to do still to make himself feel real.
And deep down he feared finding the source of the sound for it would remove all of the mystery and possibility, might reveal itself as something banal, a battery gone dead, a watch buried in a drawer — not a human heart or an ancient tale, just some other device calling out in the dark, find me.
And so he rose from bed and climbed from one floor to the next, still wearing the masque he used to sleep, and came to his writer’s desk and lifted the lid, reached for his pen and felt it touching down, drawing characters and shapes, playthings, made up words, stories once his own. It was the only way to get the sound to stop, to pass it on to someone else.
He put on the oil lamp and set out to write, to describe the sound from every angle, to put words to it, make it concrete, to fix it. And as he did, his hand moved as if possessed by witchcraft, a belief in ancient arts, the unexplained — and the more he wrote, the more he lost himself, pausing to catch his reflection in the glass, the light of the lamp, and he smiled at last for the sound was good, the sound had stopped.