Musical Rests

Cassandra was enraged. Every nerve in her body felt spliced and frayed. The symphony should have been relaxing. She loved the sound of the violins, their notes dancing together in quick staccato lilts or long, mournful cries. But instead, all she could hear was the weird, saliva sucking noise from the woman sitting next to her.

She shot another glare over her shoulder, but the woman was oblivious. What was she even doing? Was she chewing gum? Sucking on a mint. Her jaw wasn’t moving and who sucked on one mint for forty-five minutes?

Cassandra had always been annoyed by petty, little sounds. Other people always seemed to be able to tune them out. Even now, no one else seemed to have even noticed. Her friend Jess, sitting on her other side, sat with her eyes closed and a smile on her face. How was that possible?

Cassandra leaned forward in her chair hoping to put some distance between her ears and the woman’s mouth. She willed the tuba players to play louder, but still, the suck, suck, suck noise continued to bore it’s way into her skull like steel armoured ticks.

She slid her hands under thighs and fought the urge to smack some common courtesy into the woman.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in, trying to focus on the music. The brass section raised in volume with exuberance. Suck, suck, suck.

Deep breath out. Her head throbbed as her irritation grew. Deep breath in. How was it possible to make a noise like that and not notice how irritating it was? Maybe she was doing it on purpose. Deep breath out. Silence.

Complete and total silence. No trumpets, no violins, no sucking, no nothing.

Her eyes flew open. The orchestra was still playing below and a quick scan of the seats showed that no one else seemed to think it was odd that they were playing silently.

Then, they stopped. But everyone was clapping. Then, standing and clapping. Yet Cassandra heard nothing. Not even a hint of noise. Despite her concern that she had just gone deaf, she could feel every muscle in her body relax. The sucking had stopped too.

As everyone sat back down, her friend Jess asked her something, but she couldn’t make out the words.

“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you,” she said. Wait, she had heard that. She could hear her own voice.

Jess leaned closer and asked again, “Do you have time to grab coffee?”

“Sure,” she said, relieved that she had heard her. She hadn’t gone deaf. She smiled.

“Do you—” As Jess talked she leaned back and immediately her voice went silent again. Cassandra could see that she was still talking, but she couldn’t hear anything.

She cocked her head to the side and leaned closer. As she did, Jess’ voice went from silent to loud immediately. “home by 11, but we still have—” Cassandra leaned away again and Jess’s voice went silent instantly.

Jess frowned, and mouthed something that looked close to, “are you listening to me?”

She reached hand to Jess’s arm and quickly said, “for sure, sounds good. I just have to run to the washroom.”

She took off without looking back slipping through the crowd that was slowly ambling toward the exits. As she walked, snippets of conversations filtered in whenever someone got too close to her.

“Love the symphony. Why don’t we come more—”

“Her hair. I would never do—”

“So cold lately—”

“Pretty. Would you like to—”

Once into the foyer she was able to slip into the bathroom and shut the stall. She sat with her head in her hands and tried to walk through what had just happened. Deep breath in, she knew she hadn’t gone deaf. She could still hear some things. Deep breath out. It was like there was wall of protection around her that was stopping sound waves from getting in. Deep breath in. But how? Deep breath out.

The sounds came rushing back. The click of high heels on tile and then the creek of the door as someone walked out of the bathroom. Water ran from a tap as someone else washed their hands.

She flushed the toilet even though she hadn’t done anything because she thought it would be weird to leave the stall without flushing.

She’d somehow created a sound barrier. She was definitely going to need to figure out how to did that again.

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