Written By: Alanna Bailey
Photo By: Joshi Daniel Photography
The word claustrophobic came to mind. I’ve never been one for small, contained spaces, let alone small, contained spaces that swallowed sound—so this was starting to fit-the-bill for pulling the fire alarm in my lizard brain. Survival mode, hyper-vigilant, I surveyed every detail of the small, angled room, a series of rectangles stacked and repeated in different orders: rectangular ceiling mirroring the rectangular floor, pulled out and mirrored again in three-dimensional rectangular blocks, steps, one on which I sat, directly across from the standard rectangular door and an adjacent tiny rectangular window, across from a rectangular speaker fastened in the opposite corner. And as if this rectilinear closet wasn’t unfortunate enough, everything, save the door, window and speaker front, was covered in entirely drab slate-grey, carpeting, institutional, no doubt special ordered from a company that made the dowdy material with a special ability to absorb acoustics.0
The soundlessness magnified my breath and heartbeat, now entirely in my throat and head, but consumed anything else. The ad for the material or it’s corresponding ‘Yelp’ reviews must have been equally alarming—‘Wish your son and his band weren’t into death metal? Cover his room with this soundproof material!’; or ‘I’ll bet Ted Bundy wished he had this! What a great invention!’; or ‘Now my small farms slaughterhouse doesn’t scare the other employees!’. The list goes on. And horrors aside, I was shaking my head at the designer. I imagine some interior architect fell asleep in front of a bottomless Auto CAD galaxy and woke to see their toddler had stacked up shoe boxes and wood blocks on the floor nearby, and simply said—brilliant, I’ll just do that. Lazy… But perhaps fitting for a great torture chamber, or audiology testing booth, as it were.
I shifted on the scratchy carpeted step and adjusted the large leather headphones waiting like a noose around my neck, which was now starting to itch. I felt hot despite the moderate-to-cool-temperature, standardized, as the grey room. I focused on my hands, my nails, then looked down and studied my boots, shiny calico toes illumined under a fluorescent bulb; they looked like a pair of leopard’s-eye stones waiting on the dusky granite cushion of a jewelry box, snapped shut, yet to be gifted. How lonely. How the hell did I even get here?
My entire life I’ve been a water-baby, half fish, beach bum, and I never got ear infections, which seems funny to consider since I was such a sensitive kid. I would get hay fever from too much dust or cat dander, occasional hives from cat or dog saliva, full-on allergy attacks from over-chlorinated swimming pools, or my cobble stones would get activated and my eyes would be so itchy I couldn’t stop rubbing them and they’d swell shut. I’d sporadically get laid up and miss half a birthday party with an ice pack on my eyes, waiting until the magic medicinal eye-drops I had to carry with me kicked in (sometimes I’d totally score extra cake because the supervising parents felt bad, though it rarely made up for the discomfort). What caused this horrifying allergy? No one knew. Some swimming pools set it off, some didn’t. I eventually grew out of some allergies, but never my love of the water. Something about it, free from gravity, suspended, an alternate atmosphere, sky’s parallel universe, immaculate symmetry split by only the horizon. Perhaps it’s the closest thing to tangible proof of magic I could experience, though I’m certain there’s also something to it akin to the womb— a fluid abyss of infinite, quiet calm, the whole body swathed in slow time and a cool cloak or velveteen warmth. Continue reading