Unknowing the World


It starts so gradually, so gently, this learning to unknow the world.

One day, you look down at the crumpled, but mostly, unread Sunday papers, still littering the sitting room floor on Monday evening.

You will cancel the papers you say, such a waste of money and besides you never vist the galleries, the cafes, read the books, buy the clothes they review. The papers just make you feel inadequate, provincial, dowdy and illiterate, you don’t need to fill your Sundays with such naked consumerism..

So, no more lazy Sunday mornings, coffee and cats and one slice of toast too many and a nest of newsprint, but it’s fine.

Watching the news one night, you find tears rolling down your face as you watch another child walking down another devasted street in a country you can’t find on the map. You begin to treat the television with caution, choosing, when you can, the early pre-watershed news, less dead bodies, less screaming, more chance of a skateboarding budgie. You begin to avoud news channels altogether, start watching re-runs of Bergerac on channels that no-one has heard of.

One day, the black, once sleek box, develops a fault, a thick black line, cutting the screen in half. You consider replacing it, but instead, you carefully unplug it and after a few days, when it’s very blackness, it’s boxiness, seems just too much for the space , you carry it upstairs and leave it in the box room, half leaning on the abandoned treadmill. They make a good pair, you think, objects that you don’t need any more.
But it’s fine, you say.

Someone, probably the super-sized youths who hang on the corner and scare you more than is OK to admit, someone breaks into your car and steals the radio. At first you are outraged, make plans to replace it, but, 2, 3 days in to your silent journeys, you change your mind and don’t.

Silence becomes your goal. You turn off the radios at home, wonder briefly about The Archers, but suddenly decisive, pick up the kitchen sissors and snip the cable, leaving a plug attached to nothing still in the socket.

You spend a happy evening packing away CDs, you find the covers themselves sufficient entertainment and once they have joined the TV and the radios in the box room, you can think of no good reason to keep the stereo on display, so it too makes the one -way journey up the stairs.

You look around the sitting room, bare shelves, gaps where boxes should sit, the room looks empty and you sit revelling in that emptiness, that silence.
It’s fine you think.

At first, you enjoy your pre-technology life [ you are careful to always leave the mobile phone in the car - afraid that its chirping and pinging will disturb the calm of your evening].
You put on the kettle and choose a book for the evening, settle back on the sofa, lose yourself in words,feel calmed.
And then, one evening 2 or 3 weeks into this new programme, you begin to hear the words in the book you are reading, shouting themselves at you you, volume pressing into your brain.
Shocked, you drop the book.
Thud.
As it hits the floor.

The next evening, you pack all the books away in boxes you have borrowed from the office.
The boxes are too heavy to carry upstairs, but you cannot keeep them in the house, so you leave them outside the front door, 6 large cardboards boxes, containing almost every book you have owned as an adult and then you shut the front door.
But it’s fine.

You are not really surprised when, 5 or is it 6 weeks later that you wake up and know, in the very fabric of your bones, that you cannot make the journey to work, cannnot cope with the noise of traffic, the constant thrumm of the city, even the breating of your colleagues seems too loud to endure
You make the call, mumble something vague, difficult to catch and then, you move to the window and with a simple opening of your hand, you let the little phone fall onto the concrete below.
But it’s fine.

Things speed up after that of course.
Your search for silence becomes more frantic.
With nothing to distract you, you spend hours seeking out the noises that drill into your brain, keep you awake at night, make your very flesh twitch.

Within days you have decided that all household chores must be done by hand, the tasks fill the day, fill the house with gentle, acceptable sound.
You carry the microwave up stairs, its ping and the agony of waiting for the ping have become too much to bear.
The washing machine is too large, too awkward to dislodge from its space, so you have to be satisfied with unplugging it, you would like to turn its face to the wall, but after an hour of struggle, you admit defeat and now it sprawls at an odd angle, half in, half out of where it used to sit, compact, but always humming.
But it’s fine.

One night, you wake up, the pipes are banging, water hissing on its journey around the house.
At first, you think, hope, because after all, it is November, that if you cover your head with pilows, duvet, even towels, that you will be able to drown it all out, but, once recognised you know what you must do.
Almost regretfully, in bare feet, you do your best to shut down the boiler.
Just fleetingly, you wonder if you are doing this right, wonder if the house will now blow up and laugh at the terrible irony of an explosion here, in this silent house.
Your laugh surprises you, it is , you reckon, using fingers to do sums, the first voluntary noise you have made for days.
But, Its fine.

Time passes.
You lie on the sofa, bundles in duvets and blankets and spare coats.
It is very, very quiet and you bask in the silence, close your eyes, smile.
You think about venturing into the kitchen, wonder if there is any dry cereal left, although you are fairly sure there isn’t.
And then you hear it
boom, boom , boom
rhythmic, regular, like clockwork.
You are outraged……all this work, all this and still you cannot achieve silence, gain peace.
You lie back, close your eyes, consider ways to lose this final sound.

It will be fine.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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