It is better, she has found, to be a mime. Mute is an ugly word, it conjures disfigurement and loneliness, sad-eyed men in sad, brown clothes. But ah, a mime elegant and otherworldly, a mime is an artiste, and lacks for nothing!
Today she tugs on her black body stocking and striped cardigan quickly, because there is an event she must attend where there will many other mimes, how exciting. New hat, new hat, where did it go? Her room is a jumble. Ah, there! It was a gift from a friend, this little hat with its big, blue daisy.
Oh, quickly! There is little time to paint her face and it must be perfectly done: a simple mask of pure zinc-white, a hint of rose on the cheeks, little red doll's lips. The black lines under the eyes, so traditional. The hat is her only other colour, its flower and her blue eyes to match it.
The street is busy; a good day to work, the crowd seems fresh but restless, wanting something to distract it while it roams the windows of cake shops and haberdasheries. She has always thought of crowds in terms of jellyfish: animals constructed of many individual parts. A jongleur in motley garb has already filled her usual space, tossing frying pans and goose eggs in the air, his own hat open and empty as the mouth of an infant bird. In soundless shoes, she hurries to the bus stop.
It is often assumed that those who do not speak must be good listeners. It is not at all true. She finds few voices pleasant, fewer attractive, and even less with anything interesting to say. Quack, quack, quack, about nothing and everything, the fervent recitation of life's minutiae spoken urgently, as though the life itself might wane if it is not nailed to the spot by the recitation of all its many small details: what bread was eaten at lunch, how long the plumber took. She is better at listening to her iPod.
The bus is full of clowns today. Too many clowns - perhaps they mistook it for one of their little cars. One of the clowns is staring at her in that way men stare when they find her attractive before discovering she cannot speak, which makes her more attractive - unless they are the kind of men who don't mind falling in love, in which case they find the silence unnerving and lose interest in her as a possible incubator for their progeny, perhaps out of fear that her condition is hereditary, perhaps simply finding her company dull for it. Anyway, he is a clown; she ignores him.
The crowd spills out at the stop in front of the convention center, tumble-bumble down the steps in their silly shoes and too-wide trousers, chattering like school children on a day excursion. She exits when the aisle is empty.
There is an entire hall of mimes, she finds, a silent place, aside from soft accordion music piped for the crowds which hate a silence and thus must always fill it. But music soothes that fear, it seems, and the crowd is content to share a wordless space, aside from the inevitable handful who make awful jokes or speak too loudly, perhaps assuming that mimes must be deaf or at all inclined to answer.
During the breaks she scampers for the buffet table, a generous affair with platters of everything, hot drinks and terrible wine. And shrimp! She receives many compliments regarding her hat to which she replies with displays of shy gratitude, wishing they'd shut up and get out of the way of the seafood platter which is looking bedraggled for its obvious popularity.
Two clowns hover over it, probably drunk; one seems at the verge of fisticuffs, the other quite frightened. Perhaps they are lovers, though the one in the purple tie is far too young for the other, who would make a credible hobo. Over the grind of organ music, she makes out a few words: they are speaking of religion and death! Clowns!
She ducks around their spat, not wanting to get in between it even for the sake of free shrimp. Death and gods, gods and death, the young one looking like he might fill his baggy trousers out of sheer fright.
She has never thought very deeply about death, except once, at a funeral. It must be a silent thing, she had mused at the time, or the crowds would not fear it so. Currently, she is wondering whether there is a hell and, if there is, whether it is full of dreary clowns and carnival music.
She is dead within the hour, from the shrimp, her thin frame unequipped to cope with poisoning. The last thing she sees is a clown in the purple tie, laughing and her dying thought is for her hat which is not on her head, having tumbled off it when she collapsed.
Attending her funeral are many mimes, who all wear black and say nothing, nothing at all.