My mother is crying in her bedroom. A high, thin sound escaping in irregular bursts through the pillow she is using to muffle the sound. I don't know this sound. It's almost unbearable in its newness, vibrating inside my skull, shaking my brain loose.

The absence of creaking floorboards upstairs and the noiseless radio tells me I'm here alone. Just me and my mother. She making noise, me sitting in silence. A silence as tight and heavy with the potential for sudden momentum as a piano wire in the moment right before the hammer falls.

Later, at debate tournaments, I'll hear that "silence is compliance." But in this room, silence is also impotence. My mother doesn't want me to know she is crying, so I have to sit here and do nothing. The silence is also comforting. So, in the paradox of mathematical human life, impotence is also comforting.

*   *   *

My mother is crying in her bedroom. I can feel each sob altering my heartbeat like a galloping bass riff. The air is chilly, raising slight goosebumps along my forearms. Curling up on the couch, I pull a blanket around my shoulders, a soft caress of slightly rough cloth. It's the same feel as my mother's hands, not the silky smooth touch of an easy life, but slightly rough and worn from years of use.

The silence is a weight on my chest, a vibration on my skin. I feel it moving, swirling around me, sometimes bumping my body, leaving a hot spot on my otherwise icy body.

*   *   *

My mother is crying in her bedroom. A bitter taste coats the back of my tongue. The taste of adrenaline and fear. A new taste. A primal precursor to fight or flight. I try to wash it out with water, but the chlorine taste only adds to the bitter and spreads it around my mouth. It fades after a while, but the phantom of it remains buried somewhere in my brain, haunting my tongue, teasing my taste buds with its memory.

Silence has a taste all its own. The taste of burnt air after a lightning strike combined with oxidized copper shavings and heavy fog. Chemical and salty. A taste that sits heavy on the tongue, pulling it to the bottom of the mouth--a weighted, treacherous sailor plunging to the depths, struggling to rise, but inevitably resting on the soft, sandy bed below.

*   *   *

My mother is crying in her bedroom. On a normal Saturday morning, the house would be filled with the smells of breakfast-bacon and eggs, or pancakes, perhaps oatmeal. My mother knows the importance of smell to pleasure. But this is not a normal Saturday. Today, there is only the smell of burning coffee drifting through the house, mixing with the honeysuckle scent blowing through the open windows.

From my blanket, the slight stench of stale cigarette smoke and bleach--remnants of recent visitors--an aunt and uncle, my mother's brother and sister--reaches my nose, tickling the back of my throat. I pull the blanket tighter around me, disregarding the increased odor of cigarettes and burrow into the home-smell of the couch.

*   *   *

My mother is crying in her bedroom. Everything is shades of grey. I'm a small grey-skinned, white-haired boy curled up on a dark grey couch. The white curtains darken as they flap and flutter with the wind. The floors are stained as black as dried blood.

Silence here is an eclipse, a corona. It will burn my retinas if I look directly at its white hot glare, blinding me to the world around me, while opening up new avenues of perception. The glare blazes through my life, cleaning, sterilizing, leaving only pristine, ashy colors.