My silence was a private affair. It was too important, too intimate. I could share words with everyone; I was always full of words, saying more than necessary on all occasions. I would not dare share my silence with anyone. It belonged only to me. To sit with someone without saying a word was the greatest declaration of my love. I sat by myself on most days—happily. With people, I was loud, obnoxious, opinionated. With myself, I was calm, quiet, restful. I preferred the latter, but it was not to say the former was pretence or a lie. We all had parts we wanted to show others and parts we wanted to keep to ourselves.
That is not to say there was anything to hide. There is rarely anything to hide about silence. It wasn’t a question of introversion or a label of any kind either. I did not believe in labels. The moment you labelled yourself, you became permanent, unchanging, stuck in your ways. It was a question of accepting the fluidity of being a human being, of having different sides to oneself. Everyone has more than one person within themselves—only a few of them admit it, and rarely any of them lives according to all the kinds of people they are. It was a difficult balance to maintain, but it was worthwhile.
These words came out of my silence—the things I did not say, even when I was with other people. I could not write a word if I said everything out loud. Where did this habit come from, I wonder, and which came first, the words or the silence? I could only ponder over it but couldn’t answer clearly. The only thing that mattered in this confession was how I have now come to terms with these pockets where I don’t want to say a word to anyone, of only being able to maintain small talk to get a cup of coffee, of dreading no one I know walks into the café.
And if push comes to shove, to talk at length, to laugh and to tell all stories I could without contempt, softly telling my preference for silence to wait for me by my desk. To tell it: I will be there soon, and when I’m there, I won’t utter a single word.