There’s a part near the beginning of my book where my main character, Isaiah, has returned to his apartment for the first time since awaking in a cluttered, post-apocalyptic mess of a city. He’s dazed, he’s lost and he’s slowly catching up from where his mental state took a nosedive somewhere between seemingly being the last person alive and finding the remnants of those who were alive.
Isaiah comes home to a foul stench – his refrigerator – and scurries off to his bedroom hoping to catch some genuine rest for the first time in a couple of days. With his eyes facing the ceiling, Isaiah lies down on his bed and shifts his focus to every little detail of the room, from the paint color to the intricacies of the room’s design. Through all of this, in those brief few seconds, he begins to watch the ceiling fan pick up a steady pace. Isaiah can feel the breeze just gracefully give him the feeling of comfort, of manageable silence, even being able to make out the pattern of the blade patterns as they spin and spin and spin.
But that’s when realizes – “How is the fan spinning?” If his refrigerator called it quits already, then how is there power for the fan to spin? Isaiah blinks in the face of reality, looks once more at the ceiling fan, and realizes that, in fact, the ceiling fan was never moving and that he had imagined the entire situation. “Why,” he probably thinks, and so would I.
On those nights where rest is hard to come by, I find myself doing the same thing by looking up at my ceiling fan and imagining all the memories that come to haunt me. None of them are necessarily important, but they stay there for a reason, and I often find myself repeating this for my own sanity.
I’m often amazed at how little it takes for one sound, one word, or one random event for a memory to attach itself to for the rest of your life. For me, black mold correlates to urban exploration, Radiohead’s The Bend’s brings me back to my first summer in St. Louis, and hotels now remind me of my lowest point last summer. In the past year and a half or so, there’s been a new memory association, and it’s probably my most bittersweet: the quiet of night.
I get it, everyone knows what the quiet of night is like. Night is night, but quiet isn’t necessarily quiet. You can’t compare the quiet of a campout to the quiet of a study session; they may have the same result, but they have wildly different attitudes. The common denominator, I think, is the ability to shift the focus from ‘just a quiet time’ to the calm of that solitude brings. For some, that solitude is with company and for others that solitude is with themselves, alone.
The sound of a lightly spinning ceiling fan gets to me. Not every night, but the nights where I want to think about the fan. It’s a gentle sound, stronger than a slight breeze but more peaceful than a subdued rainstorm; the ceiling fan brings attention to all those conversations I’ve had with those I’ve loved in the middle of the night, no lights and without any other sound.
The closeness, the conversation, the connection. The jokes, the comfortable silence, the peace.
No matter who it’s with, no matter how long it lasts, and no matter what brought you to that point, getting that connection, that conversation and that closeness with ease is untouchable.
If you ask me, associated memories are the closest we’ll get to time travel. What else can make you feel like you were right there? That you are right there? The dead of night is a manageable silence, but it’s also something that plays with your emotions and gives you false positives — just because. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been half asleep when, out of absolutely nowhere, I think of an idea for my story and I know that if I don’t write down said note before I fall asleep, I will never, ever remember the idea again. It’s a curse more than it’s a blessing, but I’m glad I have those moments of self-reflection and spontaneity.
However long it is that my memories decide to stay connected to certain things like puzzle pieces is simply something I’ll never have full control of, but I also know I wouldn’t have it any other way. The past is a past for a reason, and it’s up to us to accept reality for what it is. Still, I’ll never give up the peace of listening to my ceiling fan do it’s thing, because even though I’m happy, it takes me to an even better place.