Ears attached to vocals attached to lungs attached to neurons. Here we are. Shhhh. Listen. You can hear it, the muffled sparks of a man on a phone outside making arrangements for a visit, a meeting with a lead sales guy in China. A lady in the bathroom stall asks her daughter to wipe herself thoroughly. A boy in the grocery store begs his father for a cookie. A politician makes promises. A pop star defends the size of her ass. Here is his voice coming into the air. It catches the ear and floats around empty, like a saltine cracker. He sits next to me on the plane. She crams her soft body into mine on the bus. He’s at the head of the table raising a glass to his newlywed daughter. Clink. Applause. Here is the sound of anger, of humor, of contentment. There is a man on the sidewalk preaching. God has a best seller and her name is Oprah. Praise Allah. Praise Jesus. Praise Mohammad. Keep our babies alive. Guns are not the answer. Free Tibet. A sobbing woman roves alleyways in a tattered blanket.
Here I paddle along the edges of a uterus. Blood and water and placenta slosh developing kneecaps. I suck a thumb. I hear his voice out there. What are we eating for dinner tonight? When are you going to be home? Don’t touch that. I told you not to touch that. I don’t raise my voice. If I raise my voice, you may not hear me at all. I’ll whisper. I’ll shout only when you fuck me. When you put your prick inside and it’s too sharp and I’m on my knees, I’ll shout, or I’ll bite my left upper arm until the teeth marks take too long to go away. You’ll shout when the marinara sauce isn’t perfect. You’ll shout when your bicycle tires aren’t sufficiently inflated. You’ll shout at the TV when the Seahawks aren’t winning. You’ll shout when I hit the bottom stair. Here I come. I’ve heard this before. I lumber up. I mope inside a soggy, screaming sponge.
They say babies cry so we all pay attention. They say babies are designed to alert all of us of their discomfort. They say that baby cries are the most alarming thing to a human ear and most people will do anything in their power to stop it. On a plane I wasn’t on, my friend stood up and told a mother sitting in front of her to “please shut her fucking kid up.”
My friend yells at me for being a vegetarian. My mother yells at me for leaving a wet towel on my bed. My sister yells at me for not sharing the coloring book. My grandma yells at me for giving her advice on stretching. My husband yells at me for yelling at him. My daughter yells at me for saying no.
My voice becomes louder than it was designed to be when there are too many fruit flies in the kitchen. Fuck, I say. Fucking cat hair. Shit’s everywhere. On hikes, with athletic shoes and hooded sweatshirts, people crawl out of the woods, pass me by and I’m only slightly compelled to say hello. It’s barely audible, it seeps from my lips and brushes them gently. An old friend walks into my house, she smiles. Loud greetings slink our arms together. I turn down the music so I can hear what she has to say.