The noise within her head is sometimes louder than without.
Like now, she stands in the crowded tram, far too many strangers are pressed together, like sardines in a tin, and the din surrounds her. Passengers carrying on phone conversations while in transit (she’ll never understand the ego here – when did people begin to think their life is so fascinating they can discuss it in public?). Car horns are honking. The tram itself rumbles loudly along its tracks, occasionally the driver dings the bell to remind cars to stop for passengers hopping on and off.
But the noise from inside her head will not quiet. She’s on overload. She wants to shout for everyone to shut up, but that will only, perhaps, make those around her cease. Briefly.
She can’t remember when they started. Ever so sneakily they encroached. ‘What was that?’ she’d ask, looking around her. She used to get irate at his hollow looks.
‘Nothin’. Dunno whatchya talkin’ ’bout,’ he would respond. And gradually, she realised no-one was talking to her.
She sometimes considers them her friends. Sometimes her enemies. Whatever they are, they’re constant. It’s the constancy of it why she no longer loves. He left her, found her once too often crouching, rocking in the corner with her hands over her ears. He packed a bag, left a note urging her to get help. Said he couldn’t do it anymore. Life might as well have ended for her. But it didn’t. Six months on, proudly and misguidedly, she hasn’t asked for help. She’s waiting for them to leave on their own.
On the tram, she notices a man, standing nearby. He’s watching her. The tram approaches her stop.
‘Excuse me,’ she mutters as she shoves and pushes her way through the throng of passengers. She steps off, breathes in the fresh air, feels a tap on her shoulder.
It’s the man, the one on the tram. He smiles and says, ‘I thought you might like to look at this. I recognised a few traits in the tram. Thought it might help. Apologies if I’ve overstepped.’ And, placing something in her hand, he strides off.
She looks down. It is a business card.
On the back, a number to call, and an address. It is nearby. She wonders what to do. She listens, to hear what the voices tell her.