Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Power of Silence

Silence is one of the most powerful weapons of communication. It may seem like an odd oxymoron to pair silence with the word communication. The weapon of silence is fierce because it leaves your mind to interpret someone’s thoughts. The brain tries to make sense of the silence, but the heart has to feel it. This can be a dangerous interpretation because while the brain tries to understand, the heart wants to feel good. The imagination can figure out a way to make the silence palatable. This can be seen in a passage from Pages in the Wind, as Emily reluctantly tells Reid about her move to New York City:



She knew she had to tell Reid that she was moving, and she didn’t have much time left before it would be too late. Telling him meant that it was real, and she didn’t want to face the reality that she was leaving. She walked along the bank listening to Reid talk about his soccer game, with a blow-by-blow account of the game. She stopped walking and stood still. He was a few steps ahead of her when he noticed that she had stopped.

“Hey, what’s up?” he casually asked.

“I have something to tell you. I’ve been putting it off.” She said.

“What?” he asked.

“I’m moving to New York. My dad was transferred. I don’t want to go but I have no choice.”

“When?”

“In a week” she looked at Reid to see his reaction. “Can we sit and talk?”

“No” he replied. Emily searched his face surprised at his anger.

“I can’t help it.” She said solemnly.

Reid continued to walk, and she caught up to him, anxious to talk it out. She looked at him and tried to figure out what he was thinking. His neck muscles were pulsating, and his face was flushed. He continued to walk without talking to her. She didn’t know what to do, or if she should say anything. She continued to keep pace with him, waiting for him to talk to her.

They continued their walk in silence, which made her uncomfortable. Reid always talked to her, no matter what the circumstance. She had to do something.

“Reid?” she strained to see his face but he kept it out of her vision.

Suddenly he sat down, and she was relieved because she knew it was because he wanted to discuss the move. She sat down next to him, and waited for him to talk.

Reid looked out at the lake as if measuring his words and his thoughts. He picked up a stick that was lying on the ground, and tossed it aimlessly. His jaw muscles were still pulsating, and his face was tight as he stared out at the lake. Emily patiently waited at the edge of the lake for him, thinking about how much she loved him and knowing how much he loved her. She sensed that the news of her leaving was devastating, a further testimony to his devotion to her. She pushed the thought of leaving out of her head, and tried to imagine what he was thinking. He found another stick and tossed it in the lake. The silence was painful, as she waited for him to talk. Reid looked annoyed, but she wasn’t sure because he didn’t say anything as he tossed random sticks into the lake. Throwing sticks seemed to be the only way he could express himself. They sat on that bank for an hour, saying nothing. Reid seemed sullen, and as he sat on the dirt he took a stick and absently sketched lines in the dirt. She watched as he formed shapes in the dirt with his stick. She wondered why he didn’t say something, anything. Suddenly, Reid picked up a stick that was particularly heavy and handed it to Emily. She knew what he wanted her to do, and she hurled it as hard as she could into the calm waters causing ripples to form in the glass-like water.

The two friends walked home in silence, and Emily felt the weight of sadness weaken her. Reid turned away and she watched as he slowly walked in the house and shut his door. He didn’t look back at Emily with a smile and a wave as he always did. She walked back to her house with a feeling of emptiness that she feared would never go away. She felt lost without him, and wondered how he would find a way to see her despite the miles between them.

When faced with recurring violence, silence would seem to have little power in Emily’s life. Young Emily needs Reid to be the antidote to her father, and she exalts him to counteract her father’s cruelty. When faced with silence, she uses her imagination to fill the void with thoughts that fit the vision of the perfect profile of the Reid that she has created. Will this propensity to battle the evil in her life with imaginary good lead her to unrealistic expectations and disappointment?