I told my girlfriend, before she bit my tongue off and we decided to end the whole thing, that I didn’t understand why we would ever just walk in silence. I didn’t get it. It was new to me; I didn’t go anywhere without sound, be it podcasts or my friends. When she and I went walking, and when we were silent for so much of it, I got angry. It felt like we just had nothing to say. It felt like things were going wrong, because they were, a bit, and this just pointed it all out to me. I felt like she didn’t want to talk to me, like she wanted to be somewhere else, like she was bored with me. It just wasn’t something I did. If we weren’t talking, it was because we had nothing to say.
The way I am with my friends is noisy. We often end up not really doing anything when we go outside, my friends and I, but we always talk. That’s why we do it, why I do it anyway. It’s an excuse to laugh, and be with people who I feel completely okay around. We don’t go anywhere to really be there. We go places to be with each other. Cute, I know. So it was a real surprise when I went out with a friend today, and we sat down by the side of a river, and we said absolutely nothing.
I had my feet dangling in the water, at first just because it felt like the appropriately pretentious thing to do, but eventually because it actually felt pretty nice. After five minutes or so the water even felt warm, or maybe my feet were just numb. Debris from the bank, dark clumps of soil and faded knots of grass, would wash between my toes, and I would flinch for fear it was some horrible oceanic animal threatening to pull me in. I was simply thinking, no podcast, just the wind and the birds and the pale blue sky to give my mind its company.
The sun, a huge golden eye staring down from the distance, was sparkling brightly against the gentle ripples of the water. A swan drifted idly by, head held high and regal against the warm summer glow. My friend was scribbling away in his notebook, a true artist, as the swan watched us blankly. I watched the swan, and the swan watched me, and we let our brains think many empty things. If my life was a movie, which I frequently wish it was, that swan would be the central metaphor. He and I would approach a realisation, an understanding, a message. For once, for the first time in a long long while, I was merely thinking, about nothing all that bad. I was one with the swan, and the swan was one with me. Swan brothers.
Life is pretentious sometimes. I find the weirdest things profound. Today, by the river, I found the whole wide world profound. For the longest time, I’ve been sad, in so many different ways. The worst kind of sad was the empty sad, the days where it wasn’t even really sadness that I was feeling, but the absence of happiness. Sometimes, though, that would be broken by a sheer longing in my body, the longing to go back in time and live in that space with that girl in that perfect little world, that brilliant time before she bit off my tongue and it all went wrong. Then there would be the sadness about my sadness, the feeling of wasting so much time moping and doping and writing about these pointless feelings on a pointless blog that’s pointless. I mean, can’t I just grow up and get over myself? The answer, of course, is a firm and hearty nope. I’d waste hours thinking about that girl, about how much I missed her. She’d invade my thoughts like a three headed baby after someone says “don’t think about a three headed baby.” She just wouldn’t fudge off, the mind hogging shit.
Except… I was watching the swan, and I was listening to my friend scribble away, and I was thinking about her like I do so often. And I didn’t even want to throw myself in the river. Not right then. I was thinking, about her, about my friends, about the water and the way it moves, constant and gentle. I was existing. It was pretty cool.
So maybe the silence isn’t something to be so frightened of. Maybe if I had just been okay when we went out quietly walking, that girl and I, she never would have torn into my mouth like she did. But that’s not the lesson I want to learn from this. I don’t want it to be another reason to regret. I want to think about that moment, how it felt, how okay it was, and I want to know it’s something I can feel again.
I think my friend, the artist scribbling away by my side, was important. If he wasn’t there, I would have felt an absence, and that longing would have come back, because that’s a space I would want to fill with her. I remember, a long time ago, watching fireworks erupt against the pure black of the midnight sky, filling it with a dance of impossible colours. I felt that longing for her to be by my side, to watch the beauty of it, because she could share that with me, because she could understand it. That was back pre-tongue biting, though, and back then I wanted to share everything with her. I realised, today, thanks to that artist friend and his bewildering scribbles, she isn’t the only person in the world who I can share pretentious moments with. Even if he wasn’t appreciating just how similar that swan and I had become, for he was too busy crafting belly laughs with his Staedtler HB 2 pencil, his presence was valuable. He’s also the only reader of this blog, so I might as well make him feel slightly valued, I suppose.
So all is not lost. Today is proof of that. My contentedness didn’t stay, because that would be too easy, but it was there, for an hour or two. That’s a pretty long time, when you think about it. Enough time for it to really sink in. It was profound, and stupid, and nonsensical rubbish. But it was. I was.
I watched the water rising into half-hearted waves when boats rumbled by. The river, especially on a sunny day like this, couldn’t stay completely still for long. It would rise and fall and ripple around whatever ended up tossed into its murky self. But eventually, after a while, the water would settle. No matter what, no matter how long it took, it would always settle.