There’s a silence I have never heard. Out here in the evening town I feel as if I am breaking some ill defined curfew, I expect to be taken off the street by armed men, I feel guilty. It’s just the dogs last walk and I have no garden will be my defence. There is no curfew yet we are hidden in our homes to deny an unseen viral enemy the pleasure of using us as a host for its evil intentions. I am walking through town and though my footsteps are gentle soled and softly trodden they echo between the closed shops.
Sorry closed until its safe to open again……..Closed on government advice……..Closed due to the virus…..Closed even to our most valued customers…….Closed…..closed…closed.
They all have their version of sorry we are closed some friendly and cheerful, others offered with great sadness and some just formal and direct but strangely they still,have their evening lights on inviting me to view goods I cannot buy, tempting and taunting me. Past the Church now the tower illuminated to light the way to roost for the peregrines and pigeons but no worship. It feels solid , stoic and as if it knows that this will pass as have other crisis and disasters in its long history. It has a catatonic feel, still and unmoved as if to say if I don’t move then I know everything will be OK. The faithful will be back.
The pier stretches before me into a silky black sea, calm tonight with no wind. Its outline etched into the sea by lights which draw me towards a walk seaward to the theatre. I would, oh yes I would but it is barred, barricaded against me, against invaders or intruders on its calm. The theatre lies sleeping in the silence, dreaming of glory days to come again with just ghosts to fill the seats for now. Back towards home then and the pub has lights on at the bar. A lock in or a secret drinking club where a password or coded knock is needed to gain entry? I peer, sort of hopefully, through the windows and can see no one but I imagine I can hear faint laughter, football on the TV, glasses clinking as the boy collects them and a fight starting out back. Well it is Saturday night.
In this silence there are new and unfamiliar sounds accompanying my walk. In the flats and houses interspersed between the shops I can hear conversations, even a row or perhaps a heated debate, music, the TV, a dog barking. Mine barks back so loud it is as if he has brought with him his own small megaphone. It shatters the night, the silence. When the shattered pieces fall and settle I am comforted by the sounds of life trickling out through curtains and blinds.
I can wandered the streets at will as there are no cars to avoid, no people with whom I have to engage in a strange courtly ritual dance in order to never meet. I can hear the sea, household life, my breath and the dogs name tags jingling. I can hear the town breathing and the sea washing the beaches clean and polishing the stones. I am walking in a post apocalyptic townscape not sure if it will ever be the same again wishing for the closeness of friends and family, for music to make my chest pound and my blood pressure rise and a play to make me cry into the darkness of the theatre.
I arrive home, it is warm and light but I cannot break the silence. The TV is off, free of prefect politicians trading transparency for truth, repeat programmes and celebrity endorsed ways of keeping busy. I have embraced the solitude and it has folded me into its peace so I sit ,reflective in the quiet while the dog sleeps, and write. I may never get this again.