“Silence” means something

By: Zeno

“Silence” means something

Kent and Judy met in high school at age 15, where they sat next to each other in class. Kent was an introvert with a slight build. He liked to read, and a library was the most likely place to find him. Judy was outgoing, cheerful and sociable and liked sports such as badminton and cycling. For the first semester, they sat beside each other but seldom talked or even looked at each other directly, because Kent was shy and Judy did not think Kent was interesting.

One day after school, on the way home, two boys from his school approached Kent, laughing at him, and calling him a mouse and a useless coward. Kent did not respond to their cold words. Judy witnessed the incident, and later approached Kent and asked, “Why didn’t you resist? Don’t you feel angry at all?” Kent did not reply; he simply left. Judy was extremely puzzled by Kent’s silence and disinterest. She became very interested in learning about Kent’s personality and family background.

Kent was the youngest son in his family with two elder brothers and two elder sisters. His was a very poor family; his parents were garment factory workers. All his siblings had finished high school. His sisters both worked as salesclerks at the same department store; one brother was unemployed and the other worked as a cashier at a fast food shop. Kent was in charge of the housework. His parents were too busy to care about Kent’s school progress and needs, and he felt the lack of their love and concern. He was physically present at home, where he did almost all the cooking, laundry and ironing, but he was psychologically absent, because no one had talked to him in a nurturing manner since the time he started to think about who he was and what the place of his family was in his life.

Judy was the only child in her family. Her parents were the gardeners for two different schools. They had received just a primary education. They were interested parents, and liked to talk to Judy about her views and her school life.

In the second semester, Kent had still given Judy no response. She tried to break the ice by inviting him to go with her to the public library one weekend. Her main motivation for doing so was that she pitied Kent for his isolation at school. She wanted to help him open up and start enjoying friendships. At first, Kent did not know how to respond to Judy’s kind invitation, but finally he nodded his head and smiled at her. Although that was the first positive response Judy received from Kent, she didn’t so much think Kent was cold; rather, she thought he just hesitated to get involved with people. Maybe, she thought, he had no experience with intimate and supportive relationships.

From then onwards, they were close friends. They married after college graduation. Kent worked as a computer technician and studied three times a week for a diploma in computer science. Judy worked as a teller and was responsible for the housework. They lived together warmly and happily. Two years later, they had a baby girl and named her “Silence.” Judy chose this name because her relationship with Kent was so quiet and peaceful. The baby girl was lovely.

When Silence was about six months old, Judy asked for a divorce: she had had an affair with her boss, a senior bank manager, who was middle aged and single. Kent was extremely shocked. Judy did not give an explanation; she simply left, leaving Silence behind. Kent was overwhelmed with helplessness and hopelessness: his first and only love in the world had ended suddenly and completely.

Kent asked his mother to look after Silence but she refused, as she did not like babies very much and was now pursuing her own career. Kent loved his daughter so much he decided to quit his job and school, and applied for government assistance in order to devote all his time to Silence.

Kent performed his paternal role well and his relationship with Silence grew stronger day by day. Silence was his life. At the same time, Kent was withdrawing further and further from adult society, because he did not have a job or socialize with others.

When Silence was seventeen, Judy came back, hoping Silence would come live with her. Her new husband agreed to this, feeling they could provide things for Silence – like sending her to a famous university – that Kent could not. Even though Judy and Silence were separated for almost seventeen years, they got along with each other very well, instantly. Judy had missed Silence terribly, and thought of her every day; even though her new husband loved her very much, it could not compensate for the pain of missing Silence. Silence did not ask her mother why she left Kent. She believed there must be some unspoken reasons, and considered it a matter between her father and mother in which she should not interfere. Kent knew Judy could give Silence more than he could, and Silence wished to live with her mother because she had missed out on that for so long.

After some discussion, everyone agreed that Silence would go live with her mother and stepfather for about four years after graduation, after which they would revisit the question and decide whether she would stay with them or return to her father.

After Silence left, Kent was lonely. He tried to reintegrate himself to society by joining a governmental retraining program that could help him find a new job. The process of shifting his attention from home and Silence to work and society was not easy, but Kent knew he had to do it, or he would collapse. After a year of retraining and job seeking, he found a job at last as a baker for a small shop.

Almost two years after Silence left Kent, Judy called and told him Silence had been diagnosed with acute renal failure, caused by a tumor in her left kidney. Also, her right kidney was functioning at only fifty percent. The doctor told Judy Silence needed a transplant, but tests revealed that Judy was not an acceptable donor. Judy asked Kent for help. Kent did not hesitate; he went in for the screening test which confirmed that his kidney would be accepted by Silence’s body, had the operation and his left kidney was transplanted to Silence.

Silence recovered after several months of hospitalization and resumed her studies. Kent found another bakery job, as his previous employer had been unable to grant him such a long sick leave. That winter was very cold, and Kent suffered from bronchitis for which he bought some drugs over the counter. Then, disaster: he had an allergic reaction to the medication, resulting in acute renal failure. He was in critical condition. Over the phone, the nurses explained to his family members that this would be their last chance to see him.

Judy and Silence rushed to the hospital, but sadly, Kent was dead before they arrived. Judy organized a nice funeral for Kent, because she felt she owed him so much. After the funeral, Judy hoped Silence would stay with her, but first she wanted to explain some things to her. Standing before Kent’s grave, she said, “Silence, do you know why I left your father? Mostly, I felt getting married to him was a good decision, but on the other hand, our marriage was so silent – it had no excitement, no vibration.”

Silence did not comment and just listened.

Judy continued, “Now, Silence, I understand why your father always spoke so little -- because silence itself is meaningful and peaceful. Words are not so important; what’s important is using our heart to express ourselves, and sacrificing ourselves so those we love can live – that was your father’s way of loving you. Your father will always live inside your body now.”

Silence replied, “I learned from my father that the most essential part of being human is to give and to forgive, and to keep our desire for material things at a minimum. I would not have been unhappy if I could have lived with Father forever. Anyway, I can’t judge you, Mother, for your decision to leave Dad and me, because I know you had to go; it was the only choice for you.”

Judy said, “Kent, you have nothing to regret about your life: Silence really is a sensible and loving child. But I have many regrets, and one of the biggest is that I did not realize that your kindness and loyalty were proof of your true love. Now I promise that I will treat Silence in the way you treated us. Goodbye, my beloved husband, and beloved father of Silence.”

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