The small studio apartment was right out of a Shabby Chic episode. The coffee table was an old iron gate; turned on its side with four iron rods welded to each corner. It was topped with a perfectly cut piece of translucent glass. Positioned on the table was an assortment of candles, a wire mesh bowl of potpourri, and a note. The note, a letter, was written on Martha Stewart custom stationary ordered online and written in picture perfect calligraphy. There was no signature. Beyond the table, in the back of the tiny 25th story apartment was a pair of rustic French doors that opened to a small balcony overlooking the city. This particular day, the city had lost its perpetual buzz. That low 60 megahertz hum that lives and breathes in every City. It’s a hum that you feel when you wake up, when you shower, when you walk through the park towards the bus stop, when you hail a cab, when you sip some bohemian java at the corner coffee house, when you bump into an old roommate at the cleaners, when you prick your finger, and when you stare, helplessly, into the mirror at a face that becomes more the stranger with each passing day. This is where we find Adeline. Standing, white Ralph Lauren towel wrapped tightly around her wet head. A few locks of brown hair hang heavily down from the back of the towel, sticking to her neck. She is leaning against the sink, staring intently at the blurred reflection before her. Steam still billows from the behind the shower curtain, as she never turned the water off. She peers into the mirror, wiping away the fog with one stroke of her hand, leaving a face reflecting nothing.
“It’s that hum,” she thinks, while pulling her upper lip up with her index finger, inspecting her teeth. She furrows her brow and makes a grunting “Grrrrrr” sound.
She reaches behind her and opens the bathroom door. A cool rush of air sweeps through the bathroom, stirring up an angry flock of goose bumps across the damp skin of her back. Shivering, she removes the towel from the Pier One chrome towel rack behind her and dries off quickly, covering herself with a fluffy, Bath and Body Works terrycloth robe. She turns off the water in the shower and heads for the balcony. As she passes the Shabby Chic table, she reaches down and picks up the letter.
“No hum?” she thinks. “It’s so quiet…”
City people never hear the hum until they leave the city. It’s why city people can’t really go camping. There is no hum. No buzz. Just silence. Silence is the worst enemy of the lonely. That’s why the lonely love the city. It’s big towering buildings. It’s alleys and corner shops. And that beautiful, comforting, hollow hum. It’s a sweet repose to them. It’s a constant reminder that there are, indeed, eight million other miserable people living in other high-rise, custom furnished, name brand cells. It’s a reminder that you aren’t the only lonely person alive. It’s a reminder that you aren’t the only one left. The hum that brought Adeline to the City, is the very same one that will not let her leave.
She was awakened early this morning by the thundering sound of silence. She had been tossing; sheets wet from sweat, her breathing irregular, whimpering in her sleep when she heard it. Nothing. No hum. No buzz. No sound. She awoke paralyzed with fear. There was just the faint thud of her own heart. Have you ever listened to a recording of silence? Take a microphone and tape recorder and just let it sit in a totally silent room? Play that tape back and the sound could deafen you. There is certainly a lot of noise in silence. A torturous noise. For a brief moment she thought that she must have been back home. With mom downstairs cooking breakfast, dad in the garage kicking the lawnmower. Her younger sister, asleep beside her, having snuck into her bed late during the night. The clean, white country sunlight pulsing in through the sheer cotton curtains above her bed like an angel from heaven sent for the sole purpose of waking Adeline up each morning. Here, in this place there was no hum. No noise. She looked around the dark room in silence for several moments before she realized that she was indeed home. Her 25th floor apartment home. Her trendy little pad with the iron fence table and candle armada. The silence was horrible. She got out of bed and went to take a shower. Before stepping in, she took a few of the pills that her doctor had given her. Half way through the shower, her head dizzy from the hot water and silence, she took a couple more pills, having forgotten if she had taken them at all.
Now, showered and dry, she holds the letter in her hand and heads for the balcony.
I am Adeline Donnor, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Donnor of Dublin, Georgia.”
She removes the floor bonsai plants from the balcony railing and places them on the table. Using her hand, she wipes off the concrete slab that surrounds the balcony. Never looking up from the letter she continues,
“I came to this City to find a life of my own. My plans back home were already made for me. My future husband was there, my family was there, my life was there. But you, beautiful City, urged me. You seduced me. Since I was a little girl I could hear you calling. Calling me to come and discover myself. To discover you.”
Holding the letter tightly in her hand, she pulls her robe up over her knees and steps up onto the concrete railing.
“I have discovered you, and you are found wanting. My Pandora’s box. When I first came here, you were so inviting. I would lie in my bed and listen to your voice. Listen to you speak promises to me. Now, your once soothing voice has become a dreadful hum. And where are you now? In my hour of need? Where is your voice? I hear no hum, only silence.”
She steadies herself and stands atop the railing. She begins to read aloud; screaming the words of her letter to the City. Her protests are pushed backed into her mouth by the wind. As if some adversary were trying to cram the paper back into her throat.
“You have failed me City. You have given me nothing but loneliness. You have trapped me here. You have cheated me. I never should have left my home. Never should have been tempted by your seducing stare. I used to lie in my bed and dream of you. And hear you whispering. Now, I hear nothing.”
“But you will hear me.”
Dropping the note behind her, Adeline Donnor let herself fall. Her eyes were closed as she plunged serenely from her balcony. Her white terrycloth robe flapped behind her like wings. The silence of that morning was broken by her scream. A shrill, desperate scream. The scream a rabbit makes just as it escapes from the deadly jaws of some foe. Although free, terrified. Her voice echoed off of buildings and rose through the early morning air.
Her wail was cut short by the sudden slice of death. Her frail body lay broken on the sidewalk buried partly by her terrycloth shroud. And on cue, the City began to hum.