In a season when the atmospheric pressures seemed to be in more dramatic flux than any of us could remember, herds of winds would gallop across the ceiling, rattling the furniture. It was the babies I listened for. Everyone was going around shaking their heads. These kids, they said.
There was a painter I loved. He knew how to look when he was painting. When he stopped was where the trouble started. Amid the noisy striving and the sales pitches, the ideologues and the masses of our families clamoring to avoid being ditched with the rest of the wreckage of the hour, it seemed like the babies––so quiet, some worried, is anyone there? ––might be waiting for someone to finally get around to mentioning this other thing. The painter dared to depict it. He didn’t call it anything, and some called it dangerously close to Nothing, but anyone looking to see it could tell you that what it evoked was the opposite of nothing.
It was a verge, and he was pulling the center to the edge of where the babies would sit, unsure whether or how they will stand. He wouldn’t live to see them.
In the season of high winds, the babies cocooned themselves in blankets of ambient noise. Those who thought of silences as nothing more than the punctuation between events, and not the main event, did not know what to make of whatever those babies were doing inside those cocoons.
They never seem to be listening, many remarked. But watch. Relax your eyes. It’s like one of those magic eye paintings where the apparent forms are only a pretext. See the weight of noise that has been heaped on them since birth. It becomes hard not to suspect that they have found some other way to manage what is pulsing nearby, while appearing not to listen at all, like the artist who pretends to paint nothing.
Wait, someone said eventually, of these paintings. I see it. The painter didn’t make it in the end, but the works became chapels unto themselves. The works were gathered in a chapel. The babies would show up, alone and in pairs, looking. They would seem to care nothing for what they saw.
Many of these wouldn’t make it, either. But some would. And when they waited in the chapel long enough to hear something other than wind, they would notice a sound more sonorous than their most immersive dream. Eventually, they would know it knew them. That it had waited as they had, for this time. They would sing.