Less Than Three
Caitlin Ehrenberg
I find that I fall back on symbols when I have nothing to say. Symbols don't translate well into voice, and silence takes its place. If silence rusted voices like cars, mine would be the underside carriage that bottoms out over the railroad
tracks. To remove the rust would be to replace the whole thing. My girlfriend sends hugs to me, my response is less than three.
Loud, round, boisterous, the voice of the guy who sits next to me in rows of computers. He talks cheerfully to the man on the other side of the room. He has an older sound to his voice, despite his youth. I would call it square in shape, sturdy, crisp, equal in tone, volume, and pace. He asks me a question. My neighbor gives my answer to him. There's little chance my voice outdoes the constant drone of computer fans, but without being asked, he knows to repeat my answer of how my night was. Colon, closed parenthesis.
High pitched and sharp is the voice of the barista calling out numbers for orders. It cuts through the crowd clear and ringing, letting the customer know their coffee is done. The guy ahead of me has a thick, low voice, muddled as if he talks through cloth. She repeats his order back to him, getting everything right, calling him by name. He's been here before, frequently. My voice gets lost in the commotion. I'm tempted to write my order down. Would you repeat that again? Dash, period, dash.
Quick but somehow clear, a voice full of excitement. My friend is greeting me with her day. Her wedding will be in about a year now. Her voice is smooth, soft like fleece, not even competing with the other voices around us that collectively sound to me like plastic bags being twisted together. It's me who loses focus, so I've lost what she's said. Question mark, question mark.
Cool, consistent, a voice almost like honey, the community radio host's voice is made for his job. It entices you to listen, informing his listeners of traffic, reminding everyone to drive safely and be reasonable with what speed we’re driving before he transitions smoothly to the weather. But not even his voice is comforting after driving by what's left of a three-car pile up. Perhaps that's why he reminds us to drive safe. Capital o, period, little o.
Gentle, kind, the soft leaking out of a long, tiring day lines the voice of the girl who greets me upon going home. She does this every evening, sometimes smiling, sometimes not. I can tell she's trying to be happy, you can hear the fight in her voice. Many times I want to hug her, sometimes I do. She's always understood my voice over the noise around. With words falling out of her mouth in good pace, she tells me she getting a dog. Caret, period, caret.
Strong. Constant. Silent. I once hadn't heard her voice, but I knew what it sounded like. Crisp, a walk through the forest, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, the gasp after a long laugh, the pat on the back. A voice I hadn't heard until recently. It sounds the same. Less than three.