Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Decibels, The Decibels

The sun shines and yet everything is a little less rosy, not for any particular reason that springs to mind, it just is. Quiet, too quiet, and lazy.
Sometimes it's nice to be able to hear the wind rustle leaves or a tiny bird's cheep-cheep, but there are times when the kind of quiet you long for is for a brief moment unsettling, until it's broken by a child's sobs and then, you again wish for that prior quiet to return. For murmurs rather than ear-piercing shrieks or drawn-out cries: Mummy, Mummy, Mummy...
Quiet does not often descend when it can be most appreciated, so that when it comes it's unbidden and unwanted, and can't be enjoyed; whereas if it's hoped and planned for, the anticipated silence is disturbed. Other factors, those unknown or not considered steal it from you so that what you get is not really quiet but a moderated tone of, which your tolerance of depends on your own sliding scale.
Sound carries, increases and decreases in perceived volume which you either tune out or tune in; sometimes the ear picks a minor sound up and won't let it go, even after it's stopped, or sometimes you hear yet block although the noise in itself might be persistent and jarring. But then there are times when everything else gets drowned out apart from the babble, anything directed at or that requires a response from you is indistinct. You're present in presence alone, your mind floundering like a fish hooked from its watery home; the lips facing you constantly moving but the words uttered unheard, and yet you pull your own face into expressions that you hope are suitable, rather than lean across the table, or, more excruciatingly, ask for everything they're said, during your incommunicable panic, to be repeated.
Babble, babble, babble...which if it was a brook or a stream and you were alone with your thoughts would be quite pleasant, but as a murmur of intermingled voices, no; each vying to be heard above (or below) one another with the acoustics of wherever you are heightening the disharmony of it, as well as your discomfort.
The false pretence or flash of understanding of whatever is passing between you and your companion: I comprehend, I sympathise, I try to equalise with an experience of my own; I nod, I simper, I exclaim in shock or horror, my mouth an 'O'; I observe you carefully with head cocked on one side like a dog studying its funny owner: what is she saying?; I stir the teapot and nibble at a biscuit, and pray the background will soon be muted.
By who? Now, that I couldn't tell you. Perhaps by someone similar to a lamp-lighter who, in olden days, would turn on the street lamps and control their intensity; or the modern-day equivalent: a singular hand on a dimmer knob, although these days this is used more for aesthetic reasons, still, the twisting action of hi or lo in this scenario applies. Lights up, lights down, it's the same with sound.
So, why is it that when I'm at home and all alone, I talk in a whisper or in a lower than normal voice as if speaking out loud and to myself is a crime, or at the very least a strange habit. I talk everywhere, in all three rooms, and possibly even more than I do when in company. I sigh, I swear; I reason things out; I gossip; I read aloud from books; I read back what I've written; and I listen to the rise and fall of the chatter outside: bird, human or operated machinery, to which my hearing makes constant adjustments.
Some days sounds are bearable, some days are not; most days it's a mixture of both as if at certain times my sensitivity is somehow different. I either relish the quiet or I want some form of noise, as if I needed to be reminded palpably of my existence, in this world or as a thinking, feeling person, and yet there will always be sounds that irritate beyond all measure: boozy voices singing and the counted overture to drinking games, and bottles being dumped in their bin and breaking, glass on glass, night and day. My location chose me, not I, it. And away from it there are other dissonances, some of which aren't loud, just annoying, and unavoidable, unless, of course, you're plugged in to another world of sound.

Picture credit: New Neighbour, Barry Kite