Proof of life
“I’m here!” a voice shouted from the darkness. No gender. No agenda. No direction. I searched for its source in the silence that followed.
Then, “So am I.” Another voice, clouded by the cold air, hovered in the distance before wisping away. I’d stepped onto the balcony only moments before, thinking of being alone. But the voices had come outside to belong.
Like lighters at a concert, more turned on in turn. From above, from below, from deep within. “Me too!” “And me.” “Same here.” Against the muffled backdrop of street noise, their overlapping words shared the cadence of community. It seemed as if every being in the building had joined. I listened as the volume rose to a crescendo.
But I remained soundless. My only contribution was breath made visible. Every time I tried to speak, tears formed and froze, and I faltered. It had been a devastating week. One of loss and longing that reminded me of more loss and longing. A dear friend had passed, along with so many dreams and what-could-have-beens. My mind traveled through snippets of moments we’d shared, that I alone would now recall. I sighed, wondering if I truly was here.
“Is anyone else out there?” Above the fading chorus of declarations, that sole question redirected my attention. Here was the invitation. For the first time since I’d moved in, someone was asking to connect for more than a glance or a hollow hello. Would I now allow myself to be heard?
Even with cover of darkness and anonymity, I couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. Something inside me resisted any comfort that might come from answering the call. I’d heard the smiles behind the sounds they’d made, the relief of those brief phrases. But I kept to myself, until the moment to act had passed.
Soon after, with the evening’s expression complete, I heard the ritual of those returning inside. The intermittent murmurs, the shuffling of footsteps, doors sliding along tracks and the clacking of latches. Then…silence.
I looked out across the landscape of lights, each one a singular effort to see and be seen. I’d find my way to them someday, but tonight my thoughts would be the only company.
“I’m here, too,” I said, to no one.