In which the reader is introduced to Luna. Through her, our hero contemplates the merits of silence.
He and his niece, Luna, went for a walk in the park. They do this every once in a while, whenever Aaron and Des need a day to themselves.
Luna’s a good kid. Quiet, but not in an aggressive or shy way. Maybe at first she’s shy quiet, but as she comes to like you she becomes a sweet, kind of gentle quiet. He likes this about her.
Both her parents, for instance, talk too much. Aaron, for one, is a methodical, measured talker, with a penchant for trying to inject weight into the most weightless topics. “I find it interesting that on days like this, when the clouds hang over everything threatening rain, it seems like everyone is in a terrible mood. Why do you think that is? Everyone thinks it’s lack of sunlight or the idea of getting wet but I actually read somewhere it’s about barometric pressure increases that create a literally oppressive atmosphere. Is that interesting? That something we can’t even see or clearly feel can have that much affect on us? ”
Des, or Desi, or Desiree, on the other hand is talkative in a weightless way. She reminds him of a bird in that her talking comes across as sweet and meaningless and mostly for the sake of making a pretty sound. “You’d like Lola, you would. She’s got your kinda, you know, ‘ness’ to her. She’s pretty, too. I mean, not, like, insanely pretty, but your kind of pretty. The, you know, earned kind if that makes any sense. It’s like a glow, or radiance, or something like that. I don’t know. I’m not so good with words but you get it, right?”
He doesn’t know where Luna’s quietness comes from. He jokingly believes that she’s grown up never being able to get a word in edgewise between her parents. This isn’t exactly true though. Luna’s silence lacks word, but it doesn’t lack meaning. By being quiet she creates a vacuum in herself that sucks the purpose out of words. She has a talent for misbehaving or acting bratty and then leaving her parents flustered after 10 minutes of worthless yelling.
He let her go off and play in the playground. Even though there were a lot of other kids, she mostly did her own thing with imaginary friends. A mother sitting on the bench beside him tells him that she’d read online that children develop most of their social skills at this age so it was good to encourage interaction.
After about a half hour he’d lost sight of Luna and went to check on her. She was sitting by a white rock staring at the very top of it. Every few seconds a little kid would come down the slide nearby yelling, but she seemed unphased by it. She was completely absorbed in staring at the rock. If you looked closely there was a little black ant walking all over it. It had a crumb of something and was scurrying erratically trying to figure out which way to move.
Once the ant was gone she got up and left him squatting there to go join a game of tag. “It’s just a phase the book says,” Desi said. “Kids grow out of it when they start to want other kids to like them. After that they never shut up apparently.”
Later, as they’re walking to the diner to get lunch he asked her some questions about her life. She answered these mechanically and in a way that made him feel invisible. She was preoccupied staring at anything that moved: people, planes, birds, dogs, cars, trees in the breeze. Luna was always fascinated for some reason by the way things moved. After about three questions he gave up and they walked to the edge of the park in silence. As they were about to cross the street she tucked her hand into his and gripped it firmly. She didn’t let go until they reach the diner.
Image Source: Paul Gosselin via Wikimedia Commons