Quiet Time

by Emma J. Lannie

I have never been that great at Maths. Everyone thinks I’m in here listening to music, which is partly true. But I am also not here at all. I am somewhere else entirely. Mine is the only door that has a lock, apart from the bathroom and the toilet. The toilet definitely used to be a cupboard. It has one of those locks that would have taken a key way back when. Now it is just a slide lock, a metal one, although it’s pretty much unnecessary. There’s no way anyone could burst in on you. The space is so small that you have to sit on the toilet sideways, with your knees against the door. There would have been an outhouse. The toilet would have been a cupboard.

There are no great calculations. I know where I want to go. That’s enough. Whenever I come by a new possession, I get rid of an old one. Sometimes, if I’m feeling generous, I will give a thing away. Most of the time I sell my things, though. I am on the purple star on ebay. I have 99.9% positive feedback.

I like to listen to jazz, the drum kind. It’s the kind of sound I can get right inside of. But it has to be loud. Sometimes I feel like I am in the film Rumblefish. Sometimes I can be up here and hours pass without me realising, and then I have to go downstairs and apologise to my girlfriend who has been waiting for me in the living room. I don’t feel so bad if my housemates are in. At least then she will have had company. My housemates are usually in. They haven’t got a clue about all this.

I don’t have a wardrobe. This isn’t Narnia. It’s good when it happens, but I couldn’t explain the equations. Sometimes I see them in chalk on a blackboard, but it’s always right in the back of my mind, somewhere near learning to ride my bike, and when I try to think about it clearly I just get rows of x’s and tiny number 3’s. None of it makes sense. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make it not happen.

The first time it was just about sounds. It was about the beats getting so loud that the room no longer existed. Later, I would turn my key in the lock and step out onto the landing, not really believing in the floorboards anymore. But it would all be unaltered. The weight of me still creaked the wood on the first step, the bannister still wobbled.

After that it was easy. Music is such an explanation. If people think you are sitting in your room alone, they let all kinds of thoughts get into their heads. But if they think you are listening to music, well, that is perfectly normal. It is acceptable behaviour. The time is always about two hours. If you put a CD lasting roughly an hour on repeat, no one will notice after just two listens. It doesn’t begin to sound familiar till at least the third go. And even then, who questions that anyway? Pick something unfamiliar, something without choruses and actual recognisable structure and you’re laughing. Jazz.

They think I am listening to jazz. They smirk about it and call it my Quiet Time. I think they are part-smirking at their cleverness at calling it the opposite of what it is, and part-smirking because they think it’s hilarious that I require this time on my own. My housemates don’t think I know about any of this. They think I am just in my room. They don’t even wonder where the things come from. They assume money has changed hands and everything belongs exactly where it is now.

All I do is broker the deals. I set them up. I write the notes. They are things that I want. And sometimes when I get them, I decide I don’t want them after all, and then I pass them on. But the ownership scratches an itch in me in a place that tries to be just feathers. Even if the thing is just mine for one minute, it still counts.

The best thing of mine is this watch. I’d wanted it since last week. When I wrote the note it was ten years ago, although the watch is a lot older than that. It’s been through wars. The note finally became an idea at the start of this month: three-day auction. It didn’t matter about the money. The money is always just a formality. What matters is it belongs to me. It is mine.

Emma J. Lannie is a librarian with a penchant for bourbon creams and fizzy pop. You can read her blog here.

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