It has been two days since I have eliminated external sounds from my home and from most of my activities.
I have folded my laundry in silence.
I have sat at a table mid-day and eaten a bowl of soup in silence.
I have cooked in silence.
I have walked and walked without audible distraction.
I look like a psychopath.
I do not feel like a psychopath. I feel very healthy. But, the silence is oddly sinister.
Folding laundry in silence, no one else in my home, just me, the dog on the ground bored out of his mind, looking up at me occasionally, this is a scene from the autobiographical videography of a murderer.
The image of a woman alone in her apartment performing a single task is unsettling.
Most of us multi-task self-care. We put on the television or the radio or we are on the phone while we clean and cook because otherwise household tasks are “boring”. I challenge the word Boring. The tasks are unsettling.
We are frightened to be alone with ourselves. We are too afraid that loneliness is abhorrent and so we distract ourselves with external craziness in order to feel sane. We then term those who are alone “crazy”. We become intimidated by solitudinous individuals and we fear them, constructing the aging single woman or man into a picture of hysteria.
Any woman that focused on her laundry: The suspense, the tension involved in just folding, just folding bits of clothing into a pile, mechanically within reach of her unflinching stance and once the pile is done, she cleans the kitchen, still alone, still in silence, still pretty creepy.
I am a filmic trope, a “psychopath”, a woman on the verge of something “psychotic”. .
Being alone in silence is a scripted tension. It is uncomfortable. It is, for some reason, within our cultural canon, symbolic of something very uneasy in a person.
I understand. I admit, I do feel like a serial killer…in a way.
Not murderous. Not evil. Not deliciously anticipating control over someone else’s pain. Just, subtly insidious.
I feel subtly insidious.
I feel like every gainfully-smiling, slowly-walking, mesmerized and criminally self-fulfilled weirdo villain in every horror film I have ever seen (plenty of them) and it is not because I feel like a criminal.
I just feel that my presence is pronounced.
My body is really here.
I am fulfilled. The same way those knife-clutching weirdos confidently float down a street towards the home of an unsuspecting teenage sleepover, I walk down my own street, hands by my side, out to get a coffee. I am far more boring than a murderer but I look like one. I get that.
Without the accessory of noise, the body constantly hyphenated with accessories to distraction, headphones and bags and cell phones and cigarettes, without any of those things, I am just a lady walking to the thing I am about to do.
It is a confident image but then, slightly unsettled because it looks crazy to simply just be that person right here, right now, especially if that person is a single woman alone in her home.
The term “Psycho” has always amused me.
“Psycho”. It sounds like a pet-name for Psychosis.
It was an insult we would throw around when we were kids, before any of us were diagnosable, before any of us could suspect that we could in fact be “psychos”, we were sure: it was shitty to be crazy.
I think of the people I grew up with and I can imagine them still using that word.
“She’s a fucking Psycho.”
I imagine that many people do not mature too far away from making pet names out of severities.
“What a psycho, that’s just so psycho.”
I remember when I learned the word.
I was in fifth grade.
A girl in my class, and we can safely call her Kate, did not like her name.
It is realistic to assume that the real issue centered around her dealing with a bunch of general self-hatred which was hardly earned. She was bullied. She looked a little funny. She ran a little funny, her ass always kind of projected outwards and then curved up as if her pelvis was severely misaligned (which is a deformity that would have been worth noting but as children we regarded Needs as amusing Weaknesses).
Kate hated her name.
She wrote a new name on her hand one day, “My name is Anne”, she wrote in ink on her palm. She had been trying, apparently, to get everyone to call her Anne for days. She spoke with quiet defensiveness. Most of us could hardly hear a word she said. The rest of us were talking over her, instigating a complete obstruction of her voice. She had been asking us to call her Anne for maybe weeks, Anne being her middle name, Kate being a name she always hated. None of us bothered to hear her. So, she wrote it on her hand “My Name is Anne”.
If we called her Kate, she would silently hold up her hand, “My Name is Anne”.
Anne, as we can now call her, stopped speaking for a while, maybe weeks, maybe months. She would not respond to the name Kate and so she stopped responding to anything in general, sitting and existing, within her fifth grade class, in voluntary silence.
“Psycho, she’s so psycho” over and over again to her face, to her neck, to her back, to her entire existence, she is so psycho and of course Anne may have had severe mental health issues, she may have been triggered by bullying to experience inflammatory mood swings or she may have just been reasonably upset with her lack of social presence thanks to the assholes she went to school with, regardless of the truth, we designated her Psycho because she was silent and it made us uncomfortable.
We did not know what to do with the girl who vowed to disengage with her abusers. We did not know what to do with her power. So, we just shouted the word Psycho at her until we never had to see her again.
Anne transferred schools the following year.
The pressure to make noise is understandable.
Those who sit in silence, those who respond with silence, are threatening.
We have invented characters who live alone and in silence, termed them Psychos and accepted their images as the essence of solitude.
But, is folding the laundry and the silence surrounding that activity, is that event, silent laundry, really crazier than Law and Order SVU or the most recently incriminated pervert on CNN or footage of natural disasters brought on by a deadening Earth, is all of that more viably sane than silence?
I feel calm and happy, the trollying wind roaring past my window, my dog’s head rested on my foot as he sleeps, once in a while the neighbour yells at his Chihuahua to SHUT UP, URSULA and every so often a line from the movie being watched next door pops through the wall.
This image, my image, screams Psycho. But, within the room, only typing can be heard as the woman uncrosses her legs and smiles without needing to scream.
With the recognition that everything can be written down, that nothing really needs to be said, that we hear too much without listening because we stop listening because there is too much to hear, with the recognition that the most important things we hear all day are the silent moments of enlightenment we hear within ourselves: I am going to bake some tofu and eat it and sit still in the dark.