|Posted by Christopher Hivner on January 9, 2011 at 10:30 PM|
Getting a haircut is a pretty innocuous chore for most people but I’ve never enjoyed them so I would wait until my head was over-run like ivy climbing an oak tree. When I had squirrels nesting on my head, then I would get a haircut. I used to go to a place at the local mall. Sometimes they could take you right away, but if they were busy you had to sign in and wait. The last time I went I waited 45 minutes with no call of my name so I left to get on with my life. But in that lost time I wrote “The Silence” in my head.
Outside of the salon there was a 20 foot circle of tile with four benches, one at each side of the area. The benches faced each other. I sat on the one that looked out into the mall. After several minutes a college-age young man who had just signed in at the salon sat on the bench to my right. Another few minutes passed and a woman who was waiting for her mother sat down on the bench directly across from me.
I’m an introvert so I don’t start up conversations with strangers too often. The college kid seemed hung over and the mother looked quite sad and tired. We sat within ten feet of each other for at least 20 minutes but never spoke. It was some of the most awkward moments I’ve ever experienced.
In my head I conjured up the silence as an entity. It stretched between us like a bubble, trapping us inside. I imagined the pressure building on our minds and bodies as the bubble expanded and cut us off from the world. As I sat there I watched shoppers walking past us and it was curious that no one made eye contact. It was as if no one could see us while we sat with in the tile circle. I deliberately stared at a few people but they wouldn’t glance over. In the story, this became a way to display the characters' mounting fear. As they felt life being squeezed from their lungs and sanity from their minds they begged for help from people who couldn’t see them.
“The Silence” is one of my short-and-sweet plot-driven stories. I used the people I sat with as the characters, limning their personalities from my observations of them. I was once asked if I ever used friends and family as characters and I don’t. But I do sometimes use complete strangers.