Dispatches at The Prospect are brief reflections from our writers that focus on their experiences during the summer break. This piece is part the Dispatch summer 2022 series.
I often ride the Metro with my headphones on and my eyes fixated on the floor.
One time, I watched a kid pace up and down the car out of the corner of my eye. He had just one fabric glove on, with the thumb hole cut out, and an Under Armor backpack slung over his shoulder by one strap. He was saying something into his phone with an impish smile across his face. As we arrived at Metro Center he jittered by the door, continuing to say something to his phone — that I didn’t hear through my headphones.
The train stopped. I got up.
“[ding-ding] Dooooors opening. Ste—”
He sprinted out — pure glee on his face.
. . .
Living in Washington D.C. this summer is my first time living alone — emphasis on alone. If you know me, you know I enjoy my alone time (probably a little too much). But every time I closed my door in the past for some much-needed solitude, I was never truly alone. There was always the soft murmur of the living room TV, the sizzling from the kitchen, or the creaking wooden floors. Now, it's quiet. The only sound in my studio is the white noise from the AC unit, and the only sign of life is the squirrels and rats that rustle the shrubs in the alley outside my window.
I hate the silence. As soon as my alarm goes off, I reach out for my phone to turn the alarm off and proceed to open Spotify. I have my headphones on as I fold laundry, brush my teeth, read, eat dinner, and walk down the street (sorry mom and dad, I’m still paying attention). I constantly drown out the silence.
One day, I was walking home from work, and my headphones died. Left with no choice, I took them off and continued to walk. But after a few minutes, I felt uneasy.
Do you know how people say you have a strong relationship with someone if you can sit with them in silence? I think about this a lot. And at that very moment I thought of it again. I know I have people in my life that I can share silence with, but I realized that I was not one of them.
In the never-ending quest of “self-improvement” that too many of us are stuck on, I have since tried to enjoy sharing silence with myself. Even though I have struggled, and experienced moments of weakness where I run back into the embrace of Michael Barbaro’s voice, I have started to enjoy the quiet. Without it, I would never hear the wind rustling through the trees, little kids playing an adorable game of “I spy” on the train, or the rattling of my neighbor’s bike (now known as Bike Guy) as he rolls it through the hallway.
I wonder if I could have known why that kid was so excited to run off.
I still can’t place exactly what about my relationship with myself makes me uncomfortable with the silence. Maybe it's because I don’t want my thoughts to wander, or maybe my attention span is too short, and I just get bored. I definitely hope it's not some mysterious remnant of the angsty self-loathing of my tween years. I guess if I keep embracing the silence, I’ll figure it out eventually.
Eden Teshome is an Associate Podcast Editor at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.