The sounds were relentless in that house. Each whine and cry reverberated against the tile, through the hallway that was really just a dark, narrow passageway through hell. The voices and the barking and the slamming of doors to some might render the house full of life, but in reality, it smothered it. The sounds never stopped, unrelenting, stumbling about even through the dark hours of the night. This mass of torment never ceased, never slept, never died. The woman there was forgetting how to smile, how to be kind, how to be in love with the music of life. She couldn’t hear it anymore through the discord between those walls.
When the sounds that originated inside the house seemed to retract back, the sounds from outside became more oppressive still, so that fate ensured that silence could never have a space there, not for a moment. Sometimes she thought she could see it in the juncture between one second and the next, in some unobtrusive place; in the inch-wide gap between the refrigerator and the pantry; skittering under the bookcase like a frightened spider; undulating with the rise and fall of the paisley curtain when a wind took its gasping breaths through the open window. When she glanced back there was no trace and no amount of searching could reclaim it for her.
Bare feet buffeted the floors and the dogs’ soft paws retained so much mud that it seemed likely there wouldn’t be any left in the yard by the time the weather warmed enough to dry it. The bright rugs became gray with it and and seemed to scream as loudly as the children, to demand as much attention, to steal from her mind any sanity she yet preserved there, to squeeze any intellectual notions from it, wringing it like a mop. She twisted it, and the filthy water splashed into the bath.
Somewhere underneath her tattered bathrobe there was a woman’s body that longed to dance, and below her unkempt hair there was a mind that cried for knowledge still, slowly being suffocated by the harshness of her daily life and the perverse grip of poverty. A stolen writer was somewhere in there still. She was gripped by the realities of undying domesticity. Tasks that never did themselves, tasks that killed a piece of her each time she did them until the dishes stacked and stank and dared her to give up her siege against them. Sometimes, with the smell of Dawn dish soap still on her hands and legs unshaven she would dance between the dishes, in some desperate act of defiance to the life she lived now. She closed her eyes and undid her mistakes, reclaimed her body and her brain and acted like they’d never gone to waste.
The sounds surrounded her. The dog lapping water from its aluminum bowl, the traffic hastening along 400 East, neighbor children walking by with an exuberance that brought her more annoyance than joy (though she would have been much ashamed to say so). A lawnmower next door, humming and biting and spewing its exhaust, her own small children quarreling over plastic toys in the dank basement. More than any of these noises and annoyances she heard the inextinguishable voice from her own mind, always reminding her that she was ruined and this life would be the death of her someday. No other sounds could drown out what it said. That stolen, angry writer who did not know how to put its voice to rest.
It was the stolen writer who strangled her voice and put pressure behind her eyes that made the tears come, who asserted herself in the most distressing of times, threatening tears while jostled on the city bus or in line buying on-sale groceries. The stolen writer protested against the ill-fitting jeans and sweater and demanded more expensive things, cried for a pen and paper as the woman vacuumed and folded laundry or cleaned up dog shit in the yard. Inside the stolen writer cried and threatened suicide if she could not control this body. It’s just a maid now. Just convenient flesh to hold small children and nothing more, not anymore. The stolen writer cried bitter tears.
Feet in the hallway, screaming, screaming, life an incarceration that no wine or vodka could erase. Everything just a potential for sound, sound until the woman went crazy with it and let it all go. One night she slept a heavy vodka sleep and woke to emptiness. No other creature drawing breaths between the walls, no vehicles storming on the road. The world was empty. The stolen writer- a vicious, selfish thing indeed- felt pure joy at the world’s being stolen away, while the woman cried for everything that ever was hers, for all she ever loved.