the silence of scandinavia

In October, the dark descends with the gray mists, and the silence deepens.

The moon is out in late morning now, and the changing leaves of autumn are subdued by the rain and gloom, the color draining from the trees and sky and the earth itself.

You descend to a subway station on a Monday morning, and, deep under the rock, there is no echo. Instead the rock muffles what sounds there are, basically just you talking to your wife on a cell phone.

You get on a train, and the silence is more profound because the train is full of people, of the pale and colorless with their thousand-yard stare. The train goes in and out of tunnels, but not one head turns. There are no headphones either – this is not a silence with inner music. This is just silence.

Then you realize that the train is not all Scandinavian stock. Far from it. There is a black woman next to you. Two black men down the train. An Asian man slumps against a pole. There are two women with almost their entire faces covered. A Middle Eastern-looking man, a South Asian woman. The one woman talking on her cell phone – though so quietly you can not hear a word – she looks vaguely Hispanic.

No surprise on a train to an outer suburb, where the immigrants get shunted. But the silence was. People acclimate. You acclimate, with no headphones and your own thousand-yard stare. You take in the silence born of centuries of darkening damp Octobers.

You remember that your toddler screamed with joy when she could see the moon again on the walk to daycare. Screamed. With joy.

That was good.


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