It happened last Thanksgiving.
Though it has been happening a lot lately.
Not to burden you with my affliction, but I have been coughing – less now than before – since September the Ninth. At around eight in the evening. I remember the day. And the approximate time. It is not like I’m prescient. “I shall now begin an extended period of coughing.” It’s just that when a doctor asked me, “When did this start?” and I thought back pensively and said, “September the Ninth. Around eight in the evening.” Though it could easily have been seven.
What I noticed was that a time I coughed most reliably was when I was talking, the flurries of coughs arriving between words, towards the end of my sentences, most especially the longer ones. The longer sentences, not the longer flurries of coughs. (Though you probably knew that.)
Sensibly, I believe, I decided to talk shorter, based on the principle:
“Less talking, less coughing.”
And that’s when I noticed it.
You know what it was?
I noticed I talk way, way too much!
For various reasons, summarized by the encompassing “liking the sound of my own voice”, I talk when, upon further consideration, it is unnecessary to do so. (Note: Full “List of Reasons” upon request. I am trying to write as succinctly as I talk.)
Okay, so it’s Thanksgiving Evening. The banquet (Dr. M, at her finest) is over. People start to relax, holding forth, among other things – Oy – on their political beliefs.
The most incendiary claim, fueled, I think, more by anguished frustration than thoughtful conclusion, I hear,
“All Republicans are racists.”
Now normally, I would respond to that, eagerly opining,
“First of all, not all Republicans are Trump supports. Second of all, not all Trump supporters are racists. Although I grant you all racists appear to be Trump supporters. (LIGHTENING WITH LEVITY) There were no ‘Skinheads For Hillary’ bumper stickers in 2016.”
That’s what I normally would have said. Because I believe it, and I feel the world would be less wise without my clarifying perspective.
You know what I said that time?
Hoping my reaction would not be seen as agreement, I simply sat there, unspeaking.
Not because I was loath to cause trouble. I’ve caused trouble before. In the past, my opinions have set off eye-rolling gyrations.
Why did I not speak up that time? Because – thanks for waiting, for those who got there before me –
I did not want to cough.
And you know what?
What I was going to tell them?
Nobody missed it.
Will the message of “Speak only the minimum” persist when I get better?
I doubt it.
But I have seen “The Right Path.”
Quoting Paul Simon, in a differing context I am unable to decipher as I am with virtually all Paul Simon lyrics,
It is the sound of silence.