Silent city


Photo: Andres Alvarado via Flickr
by Carly Tagen-Dye

You are quiet, and you know that. It has been pointed out to you more times than you can count, often by teachers irritated by the fact you don’t participate in class, or by peers who act surprised you can even talk at all. New York City might not be the best place to move if you are anxious and introverted. To you, however, it is the only place big enough to swallow a person whole. So you go. Despite the cabs honking at all hours of the night and the ever-present sounds of rush hour traffic — despite the crowds, the congestion, and the chaos — New York is not as loud as you anticipated it would be. This city can be silent when you want it to. You can make it as peaceful as you need.

There is an abundance of serenity right in the middle of Manhattan. Take the C train to West 72nd Street, and enter Central Park through Strawberry Fields. Make sure to go on a Sunday morning in January, though, when the bitter cold is enough to keep most of the sightseers away, and you can watch the pond by the Dakota in silence. If you saunter in far enough, the sounds of the city slowly dissipate until all you can hear are your shoes beating against the asphalt. The skeletal trees stand tall in the wind, their disfigured branches reaching up to touch the gray sky. There is only the soft rustle of their fingers brushing together to keep you company. You walk for as long as it takes to catch up with yourself again.

Seclusion can be found in the darkest corner of the Museum of Natural History. Past the Hall of Biodiversity is the Hall of Ocean Life. Though there are school field trips being led in single file lines, and toddlers running amok around the carpeted floor, all noise disappears as you stand and stare at the behemoth of an exhibit in front of you. The giant sperm whale seems to be swimming right out of the wall. He is satisfied, a smug grin on his mammoth face as he clamps down on the red squid resting in his mouth. The kids stay away from this corner — in the dim light of the room, the squid and the whale are terrifying monsters lurking in the dark. It is quiet enough that you can finally hear yourself think. You ponder how small we truly are when there are creatures of this size roaming the depths of the ocean. All other sounds fade.

Silence comes in the first snowfall you’ve seen all season. It starts slowly, a single flake flurrying to the ground, until its friends follow suit. They twist and twirl, like delicate dancers performing a routine. The world is coated in white; peaceful, for a few swift seconds. People push past you on the sidewalk, in a hurry to get to their apartments, offices, or nearest subway stations to escape the biting cold. Within minutes, the sidewalks are much emptier. For a moment, you feel as if you are the only person on earth, caught up in the sudden storm. The trees, bare branches dusted by frost, look like the ones outside your childhood bedroom window.

For a split second, you are back in the town you grew up in; ever-silent and still. The snow reminds you of home. Through these gentle glimpses, you begin to see New York as home too.

You are quiet, and you know that. Perhaps this city is just like you.

Carly Tagen-Dye is a freshman in the Writing B.F.A. Program at Pratt Institute