The Listener

1.1 A story of Deep Space Nine

By Joan Milligan

I am a listener.

I listen to people talk, listen to their conversation about this and that, one thing or the other, objects, places, sometimes other people. I listen to them babble and tell and stammer and shout. But most of all, I listen to them talk, I listen to them converse, and exchange a rumor, a delight, an impression.

I am a listener - that is what I do. All day, I sit by the bar and listen to the customer coming and going from the entire station, stopping on their daily drink or a round on the Dabu wheel or the occasional forbidden delight on the Holosuits. I listen to them talk of that, cheering, sometimes weeping, sometimes whispering in low, hushed voices. I listen to them as they sit and sip their glasses, as gazes are met and crossed and smiles are passed with muttered words of love, desire, hate. Sometimes they look in my direction, muttering about "poor old Morn", and then turn back to their own business, and talk on, and I listen.

They talk on with confidence, I know, because I am always silent. That is why I am always silent, so that no one will suspect that I am listening. I do not come forth with words of encouragement, disagreement or advice. I do not peek in and I do not interrupt. I am sitting, and I am silent, and I listen.

They are confident around me, with my silence, perhaps thinking that I would never be one to reveal their little secrets, their great schemes. In a manner, they are right. And be silent long enough, no one would ever expect to hear you speak.

So that I am silent, and I listen, and being silent, I disappear. I am no longer there, silent, subtle me, and they can go on with their talk, never turning their heads in fear. They never suspect that someone is listening, someone is always listening.

Listening, I hear interesting things, varied, strange, interesting things. In the crowded, buzzing station, anyone could hear a thing or two, slipping from a careless tongue into their ears when the speaker does not notice who goes by him. Yet those hearers glimpse a small part of the whole that is revealed when you are listening. One always suspects that he is being heard - and I have yet to know someone suspecting that anyone is listening. Listening, the facts become clear and the mists rise. Slips of heard rumors can grow roots and raise gigantic branches, but when one listens. the rumor becomes an idea, and the idea would in time become a fact.

And things become very interesting when you are listening. I, and I alone, know where one can find the finest barrel of Elizodian wine on the station. Listening to Quark talk to his unfortunate customer of the day over a glass of Romulan Ale in the late afternoon, when the bar is full and no one listens to anything but the chirps of the Wheel. I know of the daily growth of Keiko's orchids, and Jake and his problems with non-Newtonian physics. I am a sole witness to the rise and fall of a romance between Dr. Bashir and a young non-Humanoid from thirty solar systems away, called back from Starfleet duty by an outraged family. I treasure small moments of carefully hidden affection as Odo stares for hours at the Major, too frightened to even speak his heart. I see those, and I save them, and when I am dead, they will die with me, buried in a past known to none but listeners.

I view all these, and I indulge in the knowledge that they never know, never suspect. I know they never imagine the brutish alien by the bar keeps record of their lives and loves and sorrows, untold sagas seen only by those who listen. I enjoy that knowledge, and I keep my secrets safe. Let them go about, I think, as they do and I act as a silent observer, listener. Let them go about, Wiser than me can offer help, advice, solace. For me, I am content to sit, drink and listen as events unfold. Who else but me watches and savors those moments, as they are worth savoring, most painfully worth?

I do take personal advantage at time. I view it as a reward of a sort. But it is not knowledge I am after, knowledge of such things as the location of Elizodian wine, nor am I after the dirty secrets, and indeed, I have none.

It is stories that I am after, and moments, and thoughts, and loves, and all those things that are lost in the rumble of the world as it goes about, unstopping for longing eyes, aching heart, whispered prayers. I am after the real dramas, those that do not play for the camera or the audience. The sagas of life are what I seek and cherish. I am after the legends that are hidden by the mumbling of the crowd, after those small things that go unnoticed. if one does not listen.

And I have many such stories, many more than you would imagine.

Would I ever tell them, ever open my mouth and speak all that I have seen and heard and kept? Perish the thought. Better it be lost when I am gone than given away to the unlistening. They would not do to appreciate its beauty. The world moves too fast for those poor souls.

And if I were to talk. they would be listening to me, instead of speaking themselves, playing out their lives, actors in a drama they are unaware of. If I were to speak, they would no longer be there for me to listen to.

And we wouldn't want that, now would we?