• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 09

The Sound of Silence

We wrote our songs, a long time ago and the words would come tripping out as we sang them with pride, me on my guitar, Sam on his accordion, busking unashamedly in the garden behind my house or in the main streets round Dublin. We were stuffed with confidence, loved getting the crowd going, drunk with the certainty of ourselves, of the future there to be taken, next steps unfolding, sure that life would lead us away with its arms around us and we could go anywhere, be anything, secure in our knowledge of global open borders, the world undoubtedly our oyster.

And then bang, clash, the world closes down, the virus moves in, lockdown, shut down, slow down, stop. Nothing. Uni disappears and back I come. And there’s Sam as robust and strong and Sam-like as ever. Always there, all the way through my growing up years as far back as I can remember what with his dad’s land backing onto ours. Wake up every morning: ‘Sam’s outside’ ready to walk to school with me, then college, then him staying to work on the farm, me off to uni, then me coming back during the weird heat of that early spring lockdown and suddenly it’s me and Sam, together again. The band united: us hiding out behind the back of the farm with all the old lot from school, singing those songs from long ago, everyone cheering, laughing as the words came back… laughing because we shouldn’t have been partying, should be isolating, but no one really caring out here in the back of beyond, no one to police us either what with my folks off researching their roots in New Zealand.

We didn’t know Sam had a condition. You’re ok if you haven’t got underlying conditions, but that’s only come out gradually, not rocket science I suppose. But it’s weird the speed of it and the worst bit was not being able to go and see him though I did go and hang around outside the hospital at first, feeling like a prat as I tried to discover which ward, which window… as if he might suddenly appear behind the haunted glass and wave at me or give me the finger for a joke.


The Sound of Silence

He rang me once, said he was feeling a bit better, though I could hear him clutching and grasping for air. Said he couldn’t wait to get gigging again, had some ideas about… And I really believed he’d be back and so did he, no question. That phone call just now, saying he’s gone… Looking out of the window, all I can see is the two of us, me on guitar, him on accordion, but I can’t make us sing, not even in my mind’s eye, I can’t make us open our mouths and let out a sound.