This is entry number 11 of my newsletter, A small list of knowable things. This entry is a continuation of the previous entry (#10. Glass of water), and together they are both adapted from an essay I had deleted from my latest book, Goodbye, again. As a reminder, if you are reading this but haven’t subscribed to the newsletter yet, you can subscribe here. Thank you for reading, as always!
There was a period of my life where I lived alone. Usually, I was comfortable with the quiet, only breaking the silence when I started to feel the tension of it, like a glass of water filled over its brim.
Other times, when I was living alone in the quiet, I felt compelled to be the loudest I could be. If I had a day where I was completely by myself, one where I didn’t talk to or interact with other people at all, I would just talk to myself. I’d narrate what I was doing, I’d work on my inventory of assorted stupid voices. Sometimes I’d sing, summoning half-remembered lyrics from songs that made me happy or just got stuck in my head.
One secret to spending long stretches of time alone is to find ways to entertain yourself. I’ve learned that I’m not always able to look to the outside world, to what other people are making, for a constant stream of ways to cope — it never felt like there was enough of anything to watch, to listen to, to read, that was exactly right at the exact moments I needed it.
Instead, I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to make your own entertainment, custom tailored to you, for exactly what you require at the moment.
For me, over some span of months during a particularly dark winter, the form of personal entertainment (and coping) that I had found to get through the days and nights of being alone, to try to hold all the suffocating silence at bay with sound, was to narrate my life using my own cultivated version of a Kermit the Frog voice. (The key phrase that unlocks my own personal ability to do a good Kermit voice is repeating “Kermit, THE, frog here!” over and over again until it feels like second nature.)
I was living in a basement (sorry, “garden level”) apartment during my Kermit phase, and one night I was doing the dishes at 2am while saying, “Kermit, THE, frog here! I’m doing the dishes! It’s… the Muppet Show! With our special guest… DISHES—“ when a neighbor started knocking loudly on my door.
I looked through the peep hole and saw a large man out there, leaning up against the door, surely ready to shout at me to keep it down, to stop singing The Rainbow Connection and It’s Not Easy Being Green, to stop doing my Kermit the Frog voice at all hours of the night.
I braced myself for the confrontation and opened the door, but as soon as he saw what I looked like, his anger dissolved into confusion. “Oh… um, never mind,” he said, turning around, looking at the other apartment doors next to mine, and walked away, confused, shaking his head as if saying to himself, If that’s the guy who lives in this apartment, then which apartment could the Kermit voice possibly be coming from?
And I saw in that moment how it was completely impossible for him to imagine even a possibility that I was the one who was making all that sound.