So, here I am in the world. And the world is a very loud place.
Maybe people drown themselves in chemicals and sitcoms to avoid the sensory overload. I find myself wondering again if autistics are just an extreme example. If their withdrawal is simply a last-ditch act of sheer desperation, to try to shut out a world that has just too much crap going on at once. Too loud, too bright, too much motion, too much data. If so, my sympathies.
When we first got our current TV, we’d put it on volume 15 for broadcast, and that was apparently about right. At night, I’d turn it down to between 8 and 10, depending on what I was watching, if I watched anything at all. I didn’t watch it much. It gave me headaches.
One morning, Ariel was watching TV with the volume set to level 8. It was too loud for me, so I set it down to seven. She said that was still plenty loud enough for her.
Later on, the TV was drowned out by the Big Boom of a passing car’s radio. It hurt. A lot.
Nowadays, when I watch something on the TV, I watch at night. That way I can have the volume at 2 or 3. So long as it’s night no one is drowning it out, and I can watch comfortably. Contests of noise do not appeal to me, and my heart lies with the House of Usher.
A few nights ago, I went for a walkabout. It was a beautiful night. I wandered and meandered, and ultimately wound my way to the graveyard not too far from my house. I walked along the ditch on the North side, I washed my hands in the basin of an old statue. I left plastic flowers on the graves of the forgotten dead, their stones worn and crumbled. When I could read them, I spoke their names aloud.
There are a few houses with their back yards facing that old cemetery, the ditch lying between them, a border between worlds. One of these houses has a motion-sensitive light, so sensitive that it turns on even if a person is in the cemetery. As it did this night. Bright, vast, and fluorescent.
Afterward, yet another light turned on. A very powerful one, like a search light, or perhaps a big maglight. It tried, without success, to find me in the darkness. In the past, the hand of the person holding has been known to shake badly as they searched. But on this night it did not.
The first time this happened, I had waved at them. They’d tried to train the light on me, so I’d stepped into a tree’s shadow. Then I’d called out to them, asking if I could help them in some way. They had just kept shining their weapon around into the graveyard, hand shaking. I had finally got tired of it and left.
So this time I didn’t bother hailing them. No sense frightening them with courtesy. I waited, hidden, as they turned on their big light, waited a few minutes, and then turned it back off.
I planted a few more faux flowers and left, keeping to the shadows I adore.
It’s quiet at night. Dark, and soothing. You can hear the wind rustle in the tall grass and the leaves of the trees. There aren’t that many motor vehicles, roaring and big-bass-booming their way along the hard black scars burned into the earth. Not many people out in general, for that matter. And as I said, it’s quiet, and that suits me right down to the ground. Just the wind, the sky, and whatever animals are in season. Fireflies, perhaps. Dancing in secret places while the bats dive after them in silence.
It is indeed a shame that in order to run my various errands, attend class, and even to go to the gym I must emerge during the daytime. Even what social life I maintain must often take place at least in part during the day. Most of my friends and family (those who are left in this city) do not start their free time at midnight.
Which is a loss. For in doing what they must to survive, they do miss out on so much quiet, dark beauty. A few of my friends do walk with me at night though, and when they can such times are priceless treasures.
But now, my time is nearly up. I must prepare to again brave the day, to humor the civilization around me a little more. Such a pity it must be so loud, so bright, and so desperate.