It has become quiet ...


From her position on the corner of a forked road, sounds are exaggerated by the uncertainty of her waiting. There is no uncertainty about her waiting, for we know that she is waiting. There is only uncertainty about its outcome. Focus on a single muted sound and gradually it becomes unbearable, overwhelming, deafening. Silence is lost, is loss. She becomes agitated as those sounds erupt and surround her. No longer able to discern the difference between the internal and the external she is only aware of hearing these sounds as they invade, impel, drag and transpierce her.1 Her beating heart mistaken for the purring engine of an approaching car. Desire is audible. She casts a furtive glance along that stretch of road: not wanting to look expectant. Perhaps the stranger is arriving. Her heart beats that little bit faster.


There is, as Cixous reminds us, a law of silence. This silence not only veils, but secrets. There is also another law, a law of echo, "according to which one should know when it is allowed and when it is necessary to not demand the law of silence."2 In the case of the veil, which muffles rather than silences, the silence must be lifted and in the case of the secret, the silence must be kept. However, such distinctions are arbitrary and perhaps writing itself makes this decision: "for one may think there must be writing until the beginning of silence; and also that elsewhere silence keeps itself in any case ... [E]verything that is written runs out of silence and everything is written running out of breath. But silence is not lost; it is kept to one side."3


As she stands, on the corner of that forked road, she is keeping her secret. It is hard to tell at which angle the bifurcation of the road occurs or even whether it is a bifucation at all, perhaps it is a T junction or fiveways. The only certainty is that there is no single path forward. At first, her solitary and still figure exercises silence. Gradually, she attempts to exhaust the silence and disrupt it. This silence is one which she cannot (does not wish to) keep as she tunelessly hums to suffocate those fearful and anxious thoughts: 'How will I know the stranger? What if I do not recognise the stranger? What if I do?' What if ... ? She prepares for the loss that may not happen, grieving for the one who is not yet there. She is the one who waits for the arrival, acutely aware of this privation, this silence, the absence of the other.


She is, of course, caught in something of a bind. She not only expects to be recognised by, but also expects to recognise that which she does not know. However, she may already know more than she cares to admit. She anticipates the encounter as that moment of revelation by which the stranger becomes known. At that moment, the secret is revealed and the silence is broken. Unheimlich.4 She is somehow caught in stasis. She may have to adopt a different stance on that fork in the road, push the silence to one side, stick out her thumb and wait for the next passing car. The hum transforms to an emphatic, 'da-di-da-da-dum', an irretrievable and insistent expression of her loss.

Poised on that corner, her thoughts are random and loud. A smile and then a laugh. She looks around, self-consciously wondering if anyone heard her. As if to laugh alone is unbecoming (especially while waiting for a stranger): too bodily, too pleasurable, the very site of becoming. The onlookers, assuming there are some, whisper their disapproval among themselves, proclaiming that 'she is her own undoing, acting in this unbecoming manner. Didn't her mother ever tell her not to talk to strangers.' Blame. That's right, blame the mother. Un-becoming: becoming other. Does it matter if there was no one there to hear that laugh bubble from her beautiful mouth?

1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1987, p 348
2. Helene Cixous, 'The Art of Innocence' in Susan Sellers (ed), The Cixous Reader, Routledge, London, 1996 (fp 1994), p 97
3. ibid., p 97 - 98
4. Sigmund Freud cited in Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, (trans. Leon S. Roudiez), Columbia University Press, New York, 1991, p 183. For Freud, the uncanny is that class of frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar.