Purple's Platitudes

nothing but words …

You hear music

25 April 2004 



You Hear Music


            It was the strangest comment I think I’ve ever heard, and yet, it was one of those things that stays with you for the rest of your life. I was sitting on the bench reading the morning newspaper, waiting for the 8:20 express. The last bus had managed to clear out the corner since most people have to be to work earlier than I do. In fact, I was the only person left after the last pickup. That suited me just fine, because I enjoyed the solitude. There’s something about being able to quietly enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city’s sounds without having to listen to the endless chatter of everyone else around you. It’s almost like people have to say something to fill some void, like silence is a demon kept at bay by idle chit chat. Personally, I enjoy just listening. I don’t feel the overwhelming need to add in my two cents worth, to offer a personal commentary on every subject.

I paused in my reading, noticing the unorchestrated cacophony of the city. Traffic blasted its way through crowded streets with grunts, screeching horns punctuating the emotional impatience of many, and the whirring mechanical chorus of sounds that morphed into a rhythmic masterpiece of sound. People seemed to be talking everywhere, like myna birds proudly mimicking every sound they heard. It was difficult to grasp more than tidbits of any conversation, a word or two here, a phrase there, perhaps an entire exclamation if it was forceful and loud enough to carry above all the others. Mixed into this symphony were other sounds, pigeons and seagulls fluttering and calling, thousands of footsteps marching to work, the distinct call of the hawker, proclaiming the worthy headlines, trying to sell his papers, the winded greeting of a passing jogger – funny I don’t remember even looking up.

            I had just turned the page and crisply shook it out when I felt someone sit down on the bench beside me. I held my breath waiting for the usual banter of greeting and idle conversation to begin, but there wasn’t any. That suited me just fine; someone who preferred to remain silent unless invited was a rare commodity these days. I went back to scanning the bold headlines, looking for something worth investigating further.

             “You hear music…,” he said calmly, quietly. A statement, yet somehow a question requiring an answer.

             I turned one page down to glance over at this stranger who apparently was talking to me. He was smiling, warmly, but he wasn’t looking at me at all. Even when I made it somewhat obvious that I was giving him my attention, in case there was to be further interaction between us, he stared off into the distance. I quickly gave him an once-over, mentally evaluated him and filed away the gathered information.

            He was older, older than me anyway, a little gray beginning to show just above his ears. His face was clean-shaven, but rough, marked with pits and unattractive scars. His nose was crooked, like a boxer’s, turned to one side slightly and too broad, flattened. He wore tiny black-rimmed glasses that he allowed to slide down his nose. His clothes were plain, nondescript, a pair of blue jeans, a dark colored T-shirt underneath a Tartan patterned flannel shirt, and tan work boots, laces undone. I immediately distanced myself from this character, judging him and properly placing myself on a pedestal far above him. I returned to my paper without even acknowledging him in any way.

             “You hear music…,” he repeated quietly.

             With as much annoyance as I could possibly communicate, I crumpled the paper into my lap.

             “Excuse me?” I responded, trying to convey my irritation.

            “Did you say something to me?”

             He never turned to look at me. He didn’t even attempt to respond to my question. He simply stood up and slowly began to walk away.

             “Fine! Thanks for the interruption,” I yelled after his retreating figure.

             I tried to mumble something derogatory, but found my thoughts uncooperative. Even as he disappeared out of sight and I returned to the paper, that single sentence began to worm its way inside my head. I found myself thinking about what he had said, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything as mundane as the daily news.

             “You hear music… “.

             That was all he said. Apparently, it wasn’t a question; he didn’t offer an explanation, no long-winded exposition on the meaning of life or the state of politics or anything.

             Just that one simple statement, “You hear music…”.

             What did he mean? Perhaps this stranger knew I listened to the world around me, paid attention to the sounds of the moment. Maybe he heard them too, and his inner tuning fork reverberated with mine?

            The bus pulled up, slowed down and whooshed to a stop. The door folded and opened with just a hint of the powerful air hydraulics that controlled it. People scrambled to exit, scattering in all directions. I sat, patiently waiting for those trying to get off the bus before I stood up, stepped up and in. Dropping my tokens in the slot, I listened as the driver pushed the handle that opened the slot and watched as the money disappeared. It was a funny sound, like a spring being stretched and released, mixed with the familiar jangling of coins… yes, I thought, I hear music.

            The bus lurched forward before I found a seat, and I noticed people staring at me. Everywhere people talked, about nothing and everything.

 Yes, I hear music.

             I found an empty seat next to a woman and sat down. She was dressed in a formal navy business suit, brunette hair neatly pulled back and restrained, briefcase open as she typed on a laptop computer. Without even skipping a keystroke she smiled at me and said, “Good morning.” I nodded and tried to smile back, but she was already absorbed back into her work. Very professional, I thought to myself.

 “You hear music…”

             I suddenly realized that I was listening, observing, breathing more deeply, and smelling things I had never bothered to notice before. I looked around, noticed people, what they wore, what they looked like, listened to what they were saying, observed the silent ones who preferred not to speak, yet still spoke volumes.

            I gazed out the smeared bus windows at the city as it zipped past, like little frames of a movie. Perhaps, the stranger was right? Perhaps he noticed something about me that I hadn’t even allowed myself to notice fully? With that one statement, he had reawakened in me something about life I had almost allowed to slip away, to get smothered in the busyness of now.

 “You hear music…”

 “Yes, my strange friend,” I thought out loud, “because of your timely reminder, I do, I certainly do.”

20 September, 2009 - Posted by | Fiction |

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