The Sound of Farewell

Being an auditory listener isn’t really that fancy as it sounds. Most people have it.

Turn to page 476.

How easily can you read that in Professor Snape’s voice? It’s really not that hard. But what if that happened to you every time you read anything? typed anything?

That would be me. I read every text message in the voice of the sender, even if that may be just a “k” or a “lol.” I read every narrative in every story with a neutral, standard narrator voice, but it’s not my voice. I read every dialogue in the voice I think the character deserves. This is still nothing too uncommon.

Here’s what’s a little weird, then: I hear them. I hear the words that the lecturer says. Well, okay, duh. But for me, those words never take the graphical, syntactical form in my head. They are just, sounds, like musical notes. I need to put in effort to think of the word “medium” —to form each letter in the alphabet that make up this word — in my brain, or at least until it echoes in my auditory canals for a good two to four times.

Naturally, I associate common words and phrases to a lot of people. I often remember a person’s voice and vocal idiosyncrasies before their face. My brain seems to pick up the way a person’s footsteps sound better than the visual picture of how they pace.

And this is how I heard the sound of anger — from my mother, whose steps were almost inaudible and soft on the wooden floor of our house stairs, oh how they would turn ever so slightly louder, as if it held the tint of her rage for whatever I did wrong.

This is how I heard the sound of joy — on the playground in the rainy weather, a consistent pat-pat-pat as my peers would run across the cement floor, excited for a rare instance of precipitation in southern California.

This is how I heard the sound of dedication—from my former boss, whose pace was quick but steady, never missing a beat as he walked through the halls, no matter the time of day.

And thus, this is how I heard the sound of farewell — the unavoidable silence that befalls upon both sides of a conversation that once had ripened with fruits of avid curiosity and interest; the hum from the receiver on a phone that dragged on for a second too long; the sigh that meant everything from disappointment to relief to retirement.

The sound of farewell tears the tear ducts to pieces and pierces the heart with sharp pain.

The sound of farewell rings and rings, something that haunts you till the break of dawn.

The sound of farewell is confounding.

It is a good-bye perhaps expected, perhaps unexpected. “Farewell” literally means you hope the other will do good and be good. “Good bye” literally means you hope the other has a good “by,” the hope that one’s journey may be good. The bittersweetness of these words highlights an irony, overlooked.

The sound of farewell is blinding.

It is as though you become an athlete, so focused on the game that everything else disappears from sight. The world around you fades into the dark void that needs no attention. What others say to you start making no sense. The departure of love is a void that needs constant feeding.

The sound of farewell fades.

Yes, it hurt. Once. Twice. Likely for long time, continuously.

But like any sound, it fades, and it must fade.

Then it becomes much like the distant memories that you try to conjure up from kindergarten. A fog sets in, and remains. The tolls subside. Amp off.

Unplug those ears. It’s time to seek the sound of hello.

The Sound of Farewell

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