Common Silence
By: Manna


America, 1933
[New York]

To look at the world through the eyes of a poor man was distinctly different than seeing the same world through the eyes of the rich. Ephidel supposed that in the world he lived in, it didn't matter a whit if you were poor or well-to-do. Only the very rich had a variation of food, had more substance in their soups and stews than water, had more in general—more clothes, more freedom, more laughter.

Limstella shifted in her place across the room. Her sleeves were rolled up, and sweat poured off of her face as she stirred a large pot of laundry.

"At least there still water," she'd said to him, once, expression neither happy nor sad; she was simply aware.

Neither of them could consider themselves an optimist or a pessimist. They were very middle-of-the-road, choosing to sit together in common silence at the tiny table in their one-room apartment. They had it better than most—most people like them, most immigrants, couldn't speak English as well as Ephidel could. (Though he had always had an astute mind, and language came as naturally to him as singing or dancing or playing the mandolin came to others.) Plenty didn't have jobs, least of all a job like the one Ephidel held. This was simply fact.

Some called it The Great Depression, and others didn't want to give it a name for fear of giving it power, making it seem even more real than it already was. But the truth was that they were all living it. Some—people who were not Ephidel, who could not speak English, who could not find work, who could not feed their children—had resorted to begging, or stealing, or boiling whatever they could find in the hopes that it would somehow make it edible.

He did not see how boiling a worn old boot would make it possible to eat, but when he saw and heard of it happening, he felt a sense of detachment. Limstella was the same. Perhaps that was why they had each other—needed only one another. The rest of the world didn't matter in the end.

They sat down to supper late in the evening.

Buttered bread and a thin soup.

"American recipe," Limstella said to him, pouring the soup over his roughly-cut piece of bread. "But we American, now."

They ate in silence, ignoring the sounds from the outside world that pierced through the walls of the building they lived in before invading their apartment. Lost in a world that existed neither in America nor in their country of origin, but somewhere in between, they savored the taste of the food on their tongues, knowing as they ate it that the parents on the other side of the wall gave all of their food to their three young children. The same children played stickball in the street below, and offered to help Limstella hang her laundry, and cheerfully greeted Ephidel each afternoon when he passed them by the main doors.

In the back of their minds, they wondered how long the parents could keep it up, how long it would be until the children were going without, how long it would be until they themselves were boiling their shoes.

"They are cutting my pay," Ephidel finally said, shattering the silence with his soft voice.

"Cut? Snip-snip?" She made a cutting motion with her fingers.

"Lowering my pay," he tried instead. "I will get less money."

She stared down at her plate, a calloused finger tracing around a chip in the side. It was a long moment before she spoke, but when she did, her voice was strong and matter-of-fact. "No more soup. We be fine."

He could only nod distractedly. They were cutting his pay but not leaving him jobless like so many others. They could live on less. They could live on only one another.

So they returned to their world of silence, where they couldn't hear their neighbors tell their children they would eat later, or the sobs from the floor above them. The only sound that penetrated their ears was that of their own chewing, and when their supper was finished, they continued to sit at the table, empty plates pushed forward, eyes staring only at one another, seeing nothing else, needing to see nothing else.

Ephidel supposed that he did not view the world through a poor or rich man's eyes, but rather something in between, something middle-of-the-road, as much as he himself was. He was poor, but he had something that even some of the richest men alive didn't have.

It wasn't love, or trust, or happiness, but a common silence, an understanding between he and his wife that all they needed was each other—anything more was simply extra—and that words did not need to be spoken to be completely and wholly understood.


Author Notes:

One of the oddest things I've written to date. I left Ephidel and Limstella's nationality up to you (the reader). Or tried to, since I did have one in mind…sort of. Anyway, this was for Elficiel who wanted something with these two. I could possibly write them in canon, but it would have been very short and not very fun. Feedback would be great!