There's a Noise in Your Brain

It was already far too late.
I had never meant to be out here at this hour, but I'd been having trouble sleeping, like all these recent nights. Something about sitting there, awake, in the bed, listening to the quiet hum of machinery, the gentle buzz of insects, the soft creaking of the walls against the wind: the deafening summation of the myriad tiny drones until the air was thick and dripping with sound, until the walls bled with noise. I'd never understood how she was able to sleep through all of it, but now, now that it was just me, I was beginning to understand just how invasive the noise was. Like the hiss of a gas leak, worming its way through your ear canals like a parasite. Once you hear it, you can't stop hearing it; it's embedded.
On the horizon, cloud-to-cloud discharges of lightning illuminate the sky. Are they drawing closer? It would make sense. They seem closer than they were minutes ago.
I'd eventually gotten tired of marinating in my own sweat underneath the sheets of my bed, and so I'd gotten up. I'd crawled to the window, watched the thunderstorm in the distance, heard it crackle and rumble and snap in the dry air until the sound of the inside was almost gone, almost overwritten by the thunder and the distant rain. Almost. Almost, because the back of my brain had a hangnail and I just couldn't forget about it.
Had she even noticed the noise? I remember, I had even asked her once: "do you hear that" and she had responded "what" and I had responded "that you know the hiss the noise" and she had responded "what noise" and I had looked around, eyes wide, ears stretched open and thought to myself that noise. Perhaps if I had asked earlier? She was observant, I knew that much. Perhaps it was simply a matter of being distracted, of forgetting that the noise even existed, of not knowing how to recognize it, of allowing yourself to slip into it like a lake, like an ocean, unable to sense the water up until the moment where it fills your lungs.
A bolt of lightning lands outside, closer this time, close enough to hear the clap of thunder vibrate through my bones. A small circle of burning grass appears, expands, and is doused before my burning eyes manage to recover.
I know I shouldn't go outside, not in this driving rain and blinding thunder, but it's so damn intoxicating. Just a moment of freedom, from the noise, from the walls and their auditory blood. Besides, it's a warm summer night: I won't get cold, and as I step out the door, as I feel the wind and rain press against me, I can taste the metal in my blood. Before me, it's just empty space, just matted grass and infinite layered veils of droplets. Just a couple of steps, to get away from the noise. Step by step, out into the quiet.
It really was a matter of imperceptibility. You couldn't see the noise, couldn't smell it, couldn't taste it, but I swear if you listened just closely enough, you might be able to hear it. That was the only way you'd ever know it was there, and even then, you had to listen so incredibly closely. One could easily mistake it for something else; one could easily miss it entirely. Had she?
I see a figure in the rain, an absence of drops, a void in the surroundings. "Good evening," I say as the orbs of rain splat against my nightclothes and my skin. Up close, the figure seems more tangible, but still as grey and liquid as the rain.
Their voice is quiet. I recognize it. "Good evening," she replies to me, and I bask in the euphony of the syllables, "what are you doing out here in the rain?"
"It's quiet," I say, even though it's not. What's quiet out here isn't the rain, isn't the thunder, it's her words, which feel like they cut away at the sound rather than adding to it. As if every flick of the tongue is Michelangelo's chisel, carving away the superfluous material, the cacophony, leaving only the blessed, divine, silence behind.
"It's quieter inside than out."
"Only if you're not listening." Because that was the problem. It had to be. It had to be the problem because soon enough this storm would blow over, because soon enough the rain would stop, because soon enough she would no longer be a subtraction from the falling raindrops, because soon enough she would just be gone. And when eventually I would come to be standing out here in the morning sun, in the dew and the mud and the breeze and everything else; and most importantly, the knowledge, the understanding that it was already far too late.
The noise had already won.