6. Joseph Dante // lettersforburning
I’ve had three rooms of my own. I don’t remember the first, because I was so young, and the second I remember mostly from when I was a teenager. That was when I had gel in my hair and had a special preference for silence over music. At that age, I wasn’t sheltered or fluent in a dead language, but I may as well have been both. Friends of friends would meet me and ask: what music do you listen to? It was inevitable, the quick sizing up and labeling process of youth. Nothing, I would say. I just like it quiet. I like to read books. If these friends of friends existed outside of my advanced placement English class, it would usually end the conversation. But I liked to believe that listening to the words in your head was like involving yourself with music. It was just hard to convince other people about this, other spiky-haired people who had their walls plastered with bands you’d never heard of.
My walls never had bands plastered on them, and they don’t now, here in the third room. They’re rather plain. The walls are still white as ever (save for the one by the window, which is blue). Instead of my honor roll certificates and academic achievement plaques, I have pictures. I have pictures from the internet, a scene from New York, and art by a friend of mine who wanted to do a visual interpretation of my teenage poetry. I’ve moved on to writing fiction since then, which was probably for the best. But it still has to be quiet. I’ve always thought of it as meditative and careful, and I can’t have people watching me. Sometimes, I shut my door and lock it. My sister is a teenager now and she can listen to music while she does her homework. She’s street smart; she grew up speaking the language. She’s afraid of silence. We somehow share half of our genes.
The first ideas usually come when I’m elsewhere though: when I’m taking a walk with my mom, when I’m in the shower, when I’m going to sleep or about to wake up. I have to run to my laptop or rip a piece of paper off to get it all down before it vanishes completely. When it’s set down, it becomes like a program I have to develop or untangle. I always imagine it as more mechanical and electrically-powered than anything romantic or sepia-toned. It has to all fit properly together, the teeth have to turn like a machine. I think I’m often mistaken as a paper person, but I only use notebooks and cheap erasable pens for making lists (a habit I developed in college because of my need for organization) and writing letters. Not many people think of it as a rhythm, but if you keep on yourself about how you need to get your stories done, just like work, more will come to rattle you awake like an alarm clock. Just on time, just like a Christmas ghost. Every time, watching them watching you.
I stay inside a lot, and there are usually books lying about. I have bookshelves here, as well as more bookshelves outside my room. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I’ve read most of the books I’ve bought, and I should probably get rid of some soon. I’ve not always had bookshelves, but I’ve always had two television sets: one for video games, another for sleeping (none for watching, except movies sometimes). While I still prefer the quiet, every night, I need the buzzing of boring dialogue from a boring sitcom. It’s the right noise to turn myself off.
I’ve only started bringing myself to music. During the day, Fiona Apple is on repeat. My adolescence is catching up with me. I feel like I haven’t grown that much. I’m still small and soft-spoken. I don’t feel the need to raise the volume if I have the right words. It’s colder and quieter here than the other rooms that try to introduce other temperatures and noises. My writing is all of this.