At Billy’s house. We know each other pretty well but not one-on-one. I’m about to get into my car to leave and both of us smile, which says we’ll hang out together again. My dog doesn’t talk but she’s always communicating. My mind takes it in as though she’s talking. A person of the opposite sex catches your eye and there’s a moment of communication that’s almost a sound, like the rap of the handle of a tool on a tabletop. Silent.
Twenty years later my daughter leads me away from the fountain on the south side of UC campus and I look at a woman who’s been there while we were. She smiles and I may as well hear a sound in my head. Not a sound a smile. Her passive face momentarily seems to say, “I am open.” But I don’t think so. I think the smile can be a false openness. Why would that be? It may say something more like “Hello I’m here,” or “I remember riding my bike around as your daughter does while my father watched me.” I guess I don’t know what the smile communicates. Still, my brain has to interpret the shockwave of it so it partly seems a sound, perhaps out of habit that when someone suddenly communicates something you’re used to hearing it.
Immersed in a non-verbal world, surrounded by our fellows at cafes, restaurants, on the street. Communicating verbally but mostly not. A guy at my work always looks over the top of his cubicle, trying to connect. But he doesn’t connect with me as well as others do who don’t always say hello or obviously seek me out. I’m wondering what constitutes communication because just the visceral shared experience of being in an office together, passing by someone’s cubicle, means something, doesn’t it? I’m not sure it matters if I’m unaware. I want the crystal clarity of an action novel where things are destined to happen and time slows down as I focus on what is essential. If I slow down, let go my emotional tension, may I become aware of the communication implicit amongst me and my neighbors?
A thirty-person office. Wouldn’t most discourse have be unspoken so we don’t spend all our time articulating? Submerged in unconscious, unspoken banter. Saying hello or not, walking down the corridor to a colleague. It’s interactive at some level yet what does it mean without intention? Isn’t the awareness of my own goals and intentions more powerful than managing the interactions in which I find myself, because awareness is quicker than control? I find myself wondering what would happen if I paid more attention to what was being communicated to me, even if implicitly.
Walking to my office from a coffee shop I hear a pair of old persons walking. Thin man with cane, woman with head pitched forward. Think of it, the slow motion of an older person carefully placing every step. I infer a continuous high-pitched screaming, either the shriek of bones lacking cushion, or an imagined sound of the two pushing themselves along by sheer will now that the natal chi they used to throw at every whimsical impulse no longer serves. They move as automatons powered by outraged human spirits. An imagined sound, yet isn’t there a tendency to imagine sound with movement?
At a table at Starbucks in Orinda east of the Berkeley Hills on a hot day. At first the shock of cool air seems too much but now I’m fine. The corporation has coconut milk and sweet Chiquita banana. Not organic. Through the semitransparent green blinds I see cars passing in the heat silently as through a corporate…blind. I hear their silent motion. Each movement my eyes track elicits a response in my brain, partly a hearing response. Guess I just didn’t notice it before. The guy at the next table moves his elbow towards me as he lifts the screen of his laptop and I hear and feel it too.
Could it be the towards me that matters? Since I partly seem to feel the motion of the guy’s hand towards me, not just infer a sound, perhaps the what I experience is an adrenaline response. It seems possible when my body experiences an adrenaline surge, even a small one, that it expresses itself partly through the hearing and vision areas of my brain. If there weren’t some amount of sensory overlap I would have no direct way of sensing the initiation of an adrenaline surge–I’d just see the thing that I was reacting to… Wouldn’t I then risk being an amygdalic reactor leaping into action without awareness? Of course I can feel an adrenaline surge in my chest, in my fingertips, but I also imagine a sound when my eyes see the stimulus that starts the reaction. It’s a whole chain. Call it synesthesia if you like, but don’t you also associate a sound (not an actual synesthetic sound, but a brain message that has the sense of sound) with sudden, dramatic, silent movements and expressions directed right at you?