background noise

Silver accentuates every movement, the slide of a knife, of a fork, of a spoon into meat, pasta, mouth. There is a pitter-patter of utensils against the green, blue, red disks that could not quite, but almost, be classified as a rhythm. Flat, brown, sheets litter the floor, neaten faces, soak up spills. I am squinting, it is dim. The ceiling is carved, curved, and cradling the sounds of these slides and pitters and bouncing them back to me.

The shortest are the most vivid. In action, they constantly laugh, bounce, bang, demand or most curiously, watch like I am. What is so fascinating? What new can they see that I have forever cemented in the puzzle piece of this background, what am I blind to? With their coos, cries, squeaks and sentences, they fill a space in my hearing I offer only to home and upper left.

As opposed to the sharp one of lower right or the smooth one of lower left, the sound here is round. It ebbs and flows in minutes, sometimes more quickly than others, where you speak and the context has shifted and you’re suddenly too loud. Just as you lower it, the whispers and laughs and calls rise again, you with it.

I don’t know if it’s happiness, but there’s a lot of contentment here. I concur.

Each chair is taken or temporarily owned as stamped by utensils or sweater draped over a chair. A little one, with green food like costume makeup on her face, reclines and idly gazes around. She catches my eye and I smile, but at the call of the next spoonful, I recline to a blur in her background. Her parents are slouched and rumpled, yet somehow alert. Their eyes follow as their arms feed as they find balance, enough to finish a conversation.

Even “in public”, I feel as if I’m peeking into the window of someone else’s house. Two teachers chitter, chatter, complain. A boy and girl are leaned towards each other, enraptured by the other’s story, suggestion, secret. I try to isolate their voices from the cacophony but apart from fragments of hellos and recaps, I hear nothing because it is too loud.

I thought watching would be like fading into the waves of this place, relaxing and overseeing. Instead I am too focused; sights, sounds, and smells, when all awake, compete for recognition and emotion.

I am self-conscious again; I turn back to my book and leave other awareness bordering my peripheral.