I barely remember the silence.
Reclining slightly, I sip my third whiskey of the night, ice cubes clinking in the glass as they fall toward my mouth. The familiar burn and smokey aftermath calming the torched ends of my nerves that have somehow made it through another day.
There's a half-burnt cigarette billowing smoke beside me.
My headphones—my precious, noise-cancelling headphones—are fully charged, strapped tightly to my ears, and softly humming Ludovico Einaudi's atmospheric masterpiece, In a Time Lapse.
There was a time when I didn't drink or smoke. But that was before the day the silence ended.
Humans are adaptable, though, and the world found ways to cope.
The rich built cars, mansions, and entire gated communities lined with thick, impervious walls that granted them a reprieve from the ceaseless chatter.
The poor had no such luxury.
They either learned to live with the fallout of hearing each and every other person's thoughts, or they sought permanent silence.
Silence from the lies that can no longer be hidden, relationships that can't survive the truth, a collapsing government that can't hide its true intentions, and past trauma that is dragged back to the surface every single day, over and over again.
I can hear all of that. I can hear you. I can hear everyone.
I down the rest of the whiskey in one caustic gulp, and allow the poison to dull my senses with its numbing warmth.
Things aren't as loud as they were the day the silence ended.
And tomorrow will be a little quieter.
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