It never did go silent where I live. The trains kept running and there were ambulances. Both though stuck out in the otherwise quiet early days. For a period the trains were hooting more than usual. A deep slow minor third every time, and every time it set off in my head the organ notes that opened Matthew’s memorial service.
Then men in orange jackets arrived to build a cycle network. Through those weeks, still with no traffic to speak of, my soundtrack was a pneumatic drill. Every time I went out to visit the mini supermarket, the barriers (also orange) had progressed along the road. There were holes, and then kerbs dividing new lanes, and then a strip of glistening black asphalt stark against the patched grey of the main carriageway.
Now normal noise levels have returned. In the background trains shriek on their rails. If they are still hooting then I cannot hear it. There are traffic lights below my window and I hear the rumble of engines, the kick of motorcycle exhausts. The drill still comes in bursts. It’s a different sort of drill now, I think, one with the rhythm of a strimmer and not the pounding relentlessness of one breaking up the ground.
Part of me loved the quiet while it lasted. Quiet empty city. Quiet empty flat. Quiet empty brain. The city broken by sirens and the spectre of death. The flat just the flat. My brain, also sitting with the spectre of death, calm only when it was not overwhelmed with waves of grief.
This new normal, noise-wise, is much like the old. The sky today as well is a typical summer’s grey and not the clear blue glare that showed up every speck of dust and seemed to signal the end of the world.
There’s been a winnowing that has gone on outside. In parallel, one going on in my brain. The one in my brain will stay, I hope, however much I’m again surrounded by noise.