When I was single my life was filled with long, seemingly endless stretches of silence. Like on Sunday mornings. I would spend hours solving the New York Times crossword puzzle in complete silence. Like a monk. A deuchy, self righteous monk. But a monk nonetheless. And those spans of complete stillness and solitude seemed to haunt me. Would I ever live up to my potential? Would I find my soul mate? Would I be successful? Probably not. But then I got married and had a son and those peaceful respites were appropriated for errands. Or chores. Or shopping. Or diaper changes. But through my married years I’ve learned to distinguish dreaded moments of silence from the golden ones. And here are the various types of silence. You may recognize some of these from your own life.
The Big Fight Silence. M. and I have our fair share of quarrels. I’m a moron. Anybody who reads this blog knows that. And every once in a while (once a week) M. gets so pissed off at me for something or other. Like writing this blog. Or making this video. And what ensues is looooong minutes and sometimes hours of silent treatment. We go about our business ignoring one another. Like two complete strangers confined to a small space. And I’ll chop tomatoes in complete silence. Or cucumbers. And she’ll read a book in complete silence. Or sweep the cat hair off the floor. And the tension is thick. Palpable. Unbearable. And it grows with each passing minute. Until I apologize. Or I don’t. And we spend the night in complete silence. Until we eventually forget what it was that caused us to argue. And life goes on.
The Restaurant/Café Silence. When we were first going out M. and I used to frequent a café’ on Dizengoff Street that has changed names so many times we’ve lost track. It was Café Italia. Then it was Ducks. Then it was Café Marco. Then it was something else. And we would go there for breakfast on Saturday mornings and order a breakfast for two. And we would stare into each other’s longingly. And hold hands. And talk about our exciting plans for that evening. Or that weekend. And at the next table was an old married couple. Who read the newspaper in complete silence. And M. would turn to me and say: “We’ll never end up like that, right?” And one day, years and years later, I found myself sitting at a different café drinking coffee while M. sat and read the Haaretz weekend section while drinking her cappuccino in complete and utter silence. And I looked at the table next to us and there was a young couple holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes.
The Silent Drive. I’m a terrible driver. Really. I have no sense of direction. M. is a great navigator but a terrible communicator. She’ll say “keep going straight” when the road forks off in either direction but most certainly doesn’t go straight. And I’ll make the wrong choice and she’ll tell me I’m an idiot. Which I am. But I’ll take offense and blame her poor verbal instructions. And we’ll yell at each other. For a few minutes at least. And then once the anger subsides we’ll remain quiet. Forever. Or at least so it seems. And D. is in the backseat playing Temple Run. Or Subway Surfer. And the occasional ping punctuates the awful silence. Our silence.
Friday Afternoon Silence. When I was growing up in Kiryat Sharet, Holon all the stores would close between 2 PM and 4PM. The entire neighborhood was a ghost town. It’s the Israeli version of siesta which only still exists in the minds and memory of those of us who grew up in the provinces of Israel (i.e. outside of Tel Aviv) in the 1980’s. Well M. loves to nap on Friday afternoons after having a big helping of meat, beans and rice at her grandmother’s house. But I can’t do it. Something about the way my brain is wired. So I wash my car. Or do a load of laundry. Or smoke a joint. And there’s something about that silence that frightens me. So I look for ways to fill it. By writing. Or solving crossword puzzles. Or chores. But time slows to a crawl and I am trapped in that eerily silent vortex until one of them wakes up and catapults me back into reality.
Post Coitus Silence. M. and I don’t have as much sex as we used to. Something happens once you have children. Your life becomes so hectic and so stressful that often times it’s the last thing on your mind. For women that is. We guys think about it all the time. But the chasm between how many times we’d like to have sex (at least four times a day) and that of our spouses is as deep and wide as the Ramon Crater. So you learn to enjoy it when you can. Like when D. is at his grandmother’s. Or in the wee hours of the morning before he wakes up. And afterwards there are a few brief moments of silence that are sheer bliss. And I hold her hand gently in mine as our naked, sweaty bodies lay side by side. And I’ll smile and catch my breath. My eyes are closed but I can feel, hear her breath. And whatever disagreements, whatever fallouts we may have had dissipate into thin air. Until it’s time to go to work. Or we both fall asleep.
Siren Silence. On Holocaust Remembrance Day and on Veteran’s day there’s a siren. And all Israelis (well, not all but most) stand in silence honoring those six million that died in the Holocaust or those who fought bravely in defense of our country. And every so often M. and I will find ourselves at home when the siren goes off. It can be faint sometimes, especially where we live. A phantom siren. And so the two of us stand there embracing one another as we listen for that elusive siren. And I’ll think how lucky I am to be alive. In this country. With her. And in that infinite silence that only lasts a minute or two, I feel as close to M. as I’ll ever be to another human being.
Beautiful Silence. I’d like to say that my favorite type of silence is when M. and I share a sunset. But the truth is we haven’t. Not in a while. Life has got in our way. It’s been over a year since we were up north watching the sunset over the Kinneret. But every so often, when D. has gone to bed, M. and I sit on the couch completely exhausted. Too tired to say a single word. Too tired to turn on the TV. Too tired to breathe. And I’ll run my hand through her hair. And she’ll close her eyes and smile.
And in that beautiful silence we are the only two people that exist in the entire galaxy.
And that silence could last forever for all I care.