Sometimes the world gets so loud. I work in an open-plan office, which is another word for hyper-extroverted socially-engineered hell. Open-plan offices are always full with prying strangers buzzing around you, incessant small talk and constant social pressure with waves of noise. I walk outside sometimes, but the office is right in the middle of town and the sounds of the city replace those of chattering co-workers and ringing phones.
I have never liked this level of noise, but since my wife left me it is hard to deal with. We were not married long, but it was long enough for my entire life pattern to change. My routine was no longer going out drinking and having fun, it was now staying in cooking and watching series. My hobbies were no longer partying with friends, it was seeing the in-laws and shopping for groceries. I was no longer the fun-loving one in the office that was able to make a couple jokes, I was the serious husband providing for his family.
And then she left.
Open-plan offices are like the communal showers of the business world, everything just hangs out there. It could not have been half a day and the world knew I was being divorced. There are the one or two who ask you directly, but the majority just whisper it to each other and glance at you out of the corner of their shitty little eyes. All you want to do is quietly get on with whatever work you have to do, but people are constantly buzzing around you and often pulling you into their little conversations; who won the game, what are your weekend plans, did you hear about Pete, do you think it is going to rain, what about the memo, did you get the email, check out the notice board…
So I endured the noise of the open-plan office. And then, later, stuck in traffic, I endured the noise of the congested city. I could do all of that because the moment I opened the door to my empty house, it was not at all empty.
My silent friend is there.
He comes–like he always came–bounding up to me, all fur and licking. His excitement is tangible, but he does not interrogate me with questions nor hoot at me for answers. Tail wagging furious behind him, he jumps to lick my face with sheer ecstasy.
I laugh and shut the door behind me. I drop my bag on the table and crouch down to hug and pat him. He is a fantastic, regal beast with a comical flair. His rich coat frames his athletic form and his warm brown eyes just pour pure love into this world. I feel a little guilty that it was my ex-wife that had wanted to get him. I had argued with her at the time but I had eventually given up. It was the best argument I have ever lost.
I walk through to the kitchen and he trots behind me. I feel the warmth and happiness flowing from him. His noisy, smelly friend is home! Yay! Perhaps he should be the one working in the open-plan hell, I think briefly, chuckling to myself.
I check and refill his water just outside the kitchen door. Then I take out his food and fill up a large bowl with a generous helping of it. He sits patiently while completely and utterly focussing on my every movement. Almost like it is independent of him and his thoughts, his tail is wagging furiously behind him as he waits for me to give him the bowl of food.
I grab a microwave meal for myself while he is guzzling down his daily nourishment. I am tired of cooking and cooking for one feels quite pointless, so I just guzzle down my microwave meal and move through to the lounge. Here I slide onto a couch and put on some soft TV. I do not put just any channel on. No. I have been subject to noise the whole day, so I put on one of the music channels and soft rock starts to float through the room.
He jumps up onto the couch, licks my face with his smelly breath and curls up next to me. I smile and stroke his coat. He looks up and I scratch behind his ear. I can feel him smiling. I slide back in the chair and close my eyes.
He begins to softly snore. It is a rhythmic sound that rises and falls in regular intensity. I feel his comfortable weight pressing against me. The soft music on the TV flows into another song. Outside in the night, the city is still there and the open-plan hell still awaits me tomorrow morning. But, for now, I am at peace at home with my silent best friend. And, as I start to fall asleep, I realise that I am smiling.