My daughter is a freshman in high school. She’s an absolute wiz at Math but claims to struggle in English. For her English midterm, she wrote a descriptive essay about a noisy group of people. My jaw literally dropped as I read it. I have asked her permission to tweak it just a smidgen (C’mon–I’m an editor, after all.) and post it here because this is a Proud Mom Moment. Enjoy!
Do you hear it?
Like bees, they buzz and swarm, collectively creating an overwhelming atmosphere. Everything is constantly moving in the heart of the city. She talks quietly. He is silent. It seems they feel their communication is effective enough. The man with his denim jacket on and cell phone close to his ear seems to feel like no one can hear him; he shouts.
The streams of humans on the sidewalks are dense as they push and jostle to get where they need to be, moving into and out of shops and bars. Personal space is nonexistent during this time of the day. So close to them that you smell his body odor and her perfume invading your nostrils, you choke on the smell of laziness and too much effort.
Don’t open your mouth. There is already so much sound. Your ears ring and your thoughts, usually neatly packed in files, are now scattered all over your mind and once you pick one up, the others you held float away.
Your tongue tastes of this morning’s breakfast and your lips are chapped together. Eyes burn from the afternoon light displays and the sight of the Jolly Old Man in Red, preparing to deliver joy to all of those who can afford it. Children tug on their mother’s hand shouting and begging to go inside to see Mr. Claus and tell him what they want.
Everything is blurred except the sound—the screech of taxi tires and bursts of warnings and threats from their horns. Blasts of exhaust escape the tubes under buses and trucks as their drivers press pedals to propel them toward their destinations. All of this, in addition to the singing of male and female voices all around…
“Max, wait up!” you hear out of the chaos. Squeaky and weak was the voice; her form wasn’t shown. It was blocked by the mass of people–all of them different, making them the same. Chiseled facial structures mix with others that hang on to their baby fat. You see their lips move but you don’t hear their words. You just hear the collective roar of everyone.
Taking notice of the bursts of steam let into the air by the crowd’s mouths, you realize there is no pattern. The organization of everyone’s need to communicate isn’t organized at all. They all speak at different volumes and tones. One voice is deep and raspy, rumbling the ground with its pitch. Another voice is light, like whipped cream; the serving of sweetness fills you with comfort and peace. Another, you can’t understand. A family speaks a foreign language, they can only communicate with each other.
Communication is the process they’re using. Even with their cell phones they share information with people who aren’t right here. All of this understanding is made from a series of sounds that create a language that works for us. Now it is all blended and mixed here in Radio City. Emotion and action is translated to screams and shouts, verbs and nouns, dates and times. It’s all a jumble like my brain. But finally, I can begin to piece together the jigsaw puzzle and see the picture clearly. The buzz is beautiful. The buzz is life. It shouldn’t bother me so much. I do it, too. The noise is universal. The norm is noise. Close your eyes and listen.