A quiet this quiet can only come after the Earth has settled, the stimulating light extinguished for a time, then rising again out of the east noiselessly. Morning light fills the room we are in with this quiet. Your ear adjusts. The silence now has a specific sound; a steady purr. You hear each click of a slender brush being set upon a vanity’s glass topped surface, and picked up again.

The clack of plastics meeting glass, the faint, dull, muted clang of small metal cases rapping after…these are sounds that feel familiar, stable—an assurance of carrying on the tradition of making these clicks and clacks, their purpose a mystery to children, animals and men.

Outside is a rhythmic whoosh. A train, maybe distant traffic. The mindless parts of the process are so routine, so rote, that she would have no recollection of completing these tasks immediately afterward. But the rhythms and motions are proven done nonetheless, anyone could see that by looking at her face. Those automatic movements carry on while her mind rushes off elsewhere, to future encounters, to conversations she would have to have. These are sounds and voices in her head that do not breach the quiet of the room. Peppered throughout are images of the potential day ahead, flashing by as disparate and disconnected as dreams: the intrusion of a tuneless whistler, the bray of Midwestern accents inquiring directions, the panicky feeling she gets when she sees elderly people traverse the rushing-by city.

She flips her head upside-down and toggles the ‘on’ switch. From this angle, she can see the objects through the underside of the glass top: brushes, crêmes, primer, powder, liquid, spritz, soft shadows.

Amid the anxious whirr of the dryer, she is isolated. The loud, white noise diminishes all other sounds, outside and in. The drone is too persistent to think through it. She takes deep breaths and tries to imagine herself less hot. She pictures a shop with soft cool gusts of air and freon blowing on her face. She imagines her poise matching this feeling—controlled. Alert. Polite, but assertive. The switch is fiddled to ‘off’. Swinging her head back upright, there is another whoosh, of blood flow resettling in her ears. 

She regards herself in the mirror. Does this reflection match what is inside of her? Does the ritualistic preening prepare her? Hinder her? Embolden her? Arm her?

The morning quiet has been replaced by the crescendo of the world waking up. She is ready.