The Quiet Room

A few apples still cling to a tree out­side the win­dow where I am writ­ing — which hap­pens to be a pub­lic library. 

The apples that swing in the top branch­es are like my wan­der­ing thoughts on this last day of Sep­tem­ber. I keep get­ting dis­tract­ed by them. In the dis­tance, every so often I can hear a ref­er­ee’s whis­tle blow. There must be a soc­cer field near­by, so I imag­ine the chil­dren playing.

The library itself is sup­posed to be qui­et. Espe­cial­ly here where I am, in a space des­ig­nat­ed “The Qui­et Room.” It’s the inner sanc­tum, the most silent, undis­tract­ing part of a sup­pos­ed­ly sub­dued place. In the Qui­et Room with its wall of win­dows and door that clos­es no one is sup­posed to talk at all.

Here, with­out even a human whis­per to ignore, or the inter­mit­tent noise from the front desk, or a shushed child, every oth­er sound stands out like a car horn. In fact, there is noth­ing qui­et here at all. The breath­ing of the man to my left, as he nods off over his books sounds like water repeat­ed­ly poured and sucked from a met­al bowl. The rus­tle of the news­pa­per to the right crack­les and thumps like trees being felled in a for­est. The whis­tle blows of the ref­er­ee become screams of a dis­tant train. And behind me, there is that heavy pound­ing — of plas­tic keys. In front of me, too, the pound­ing of my own key clicks go on — and both sets begin to sound like heals on a met­al cat­walk. Will they nev­er stop?

The sound of my own thoughts on this Sun­day in the Qui­et Room are all but drowned out by every­thing else. And now those apples beyond the win­dows are dis­tract­ing me, too — the way they hang sus­pend­ed in their sun­lit, pri­vate lim­bos; the way they wait there on their bal­conies, wait for their fall from the top of a half-leaved tree.

This is no place to write some­thing impor­tant. There are far too many distractions. 

Just so, in how many places have you heard such a silence? Where every scrape of the door reminds you of the work you are sup­posed to be doing. Where the absence of any real con­ver­sa­tion sus­pends every­one and time, too. Where the place seems busy enough — the keys keep clack­ing away — but the truth of the actu­al wait­ing going on there booms loud­er than any cannon.…


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