Man with a Microphone

/ September 2021

The leather on the burgundy recliner was softer than I anticipated, but I was delighted to find that it still had a satisfying sort of stiffness that, as I sank into it, created a nice, stretchy sort of symphony: some higher-register squeaks coupled with more baritone creaks, flatulent-adjacent timbres joined with the mid-range shuffling of my poly-cotton-blend apparel against the animal-product burgundy, sweet burgundy, what a sound!

“So first, I think we should get to know each other a little bit.”

The shrink (if you’ll pardon the antiquated diction that I so enjoy) had just about the bushiest eyebrows I’d ever seen, these shockingly white creatures who seemed limited only by their respectful territorial concession to a truly protrusive nose. His spectacles had perfectly round lenses which, truth be told, alarmed me — I’ve always been scared of circles. He had a tweed jacket which I found so evocative of an earlier era that I found it hard to even focus on the fact that his polka dot tie had a gaping moth-begotten-hole just a hair off of the line of symmetry.

“Well, I’m thirty-four years old and I’m from a state that most people are surprised to find out fought for the Union. My favorite color is mauve and I’ve been known to sleep through events with world-historical significance, purely by coincidence. I find concrete to be quite an underrated material. All in all, I think I’m in perfectly good health and, to be honest, do not respect your profession.”

I felt comfortable being mildly belligerent because I imagined he got a lot of that. I wasn’t there of my own volition, either — so there was undoubtedly some kind of Freudian power element at play.

My family was terrified on my behalf, was the issue. My perpetual state of roaming in all terrain and all weathers, microphone dutifully recording the magnificent harmonies suffusing the overwise quite dreary mortal coil, brought them no end of shock, confusion, and downright horror.

“Thank you. We can just get right into things.” (perhaps his eyebrows had an appointment to keep). “I understand that you have a unique relationship to sound. Would you like to talk about that a little?”

Initially, there had been quite a nefarious obsession over me entering the “labor market,” an impetus communicated to me with the much-maligned edict to “get a job.” As time passed, this insistence on conformity morphed into a more generalized health concern, that being, I believe, that I was positively out of my mind. My microphone and, more importantly, the dulcet melodies of the cosmos, were unperturbed.

“Well, let me say it like this. Yesterday I walked by a cow pasture and the varied ‘moos’ bound their frequencies together into a beautifully polyphonic tune, a multi-leveled masterpiece that communicated to me such deep emotional expressions that I cannot even attempt to capture them with our primitive verbal modes.

“The day before that, I had the sublime pleasure of riding a metropolitan subway system and hearing the delectable tenor of doors, beeps, chirps, announcements, human speech, footfalls, and air displacements come together into an absolutely brilliant composition, a rhapsodic potpourri that expanded my understanding of human society and its infinitely multifaceted complexity.

“And last week, my god — sitting in my chair at night the soft hum of my computer aligned with rhythmic perfection with the repetitive tapping of a wayward moth attempting to pierce my window to access my buzzing lightbulb, right as neighborhood juveniles detonated firecrackers and, entirely unrelatedly, my phone was ringing, forming one of the most sophisticated overtures of the experience of physicality that I have ever encountered.”

The quack frowned.

“So would you say that listening to everyday sounds produces in you an experience of beauty rivaling that of music?”

“No, that’s entirely wrong. I make no special dispensation for sounds which are consciously created and labeled as being ‘musical’ by intrepid humans. I mean to say, everything I hear is beautiful, and I have found, much to my dismay, that this experience is so out-of-line that it threatens and alarms those around me.”

I could hear his frown frown.

“The most relevant concern is not your constant experience of aesthetic beauty, which I believe we all find enviable. Rather, your family is worried that your obsession with this pervasive musicality is ruining your ability to participate in the exchange of goods and labor to which we are all bound. Have you considered monetizing your recordings?”

“To do so would be the most crude and barbaric form of plagiarism, doc. I do not compose, arrange, perform, edit, alter, analyze, or even commentate on, in the form of adulative exclamations, my recordings. Nor do I, like the valiant photographers, in any way go out of my way or expend any energy in order to capture any particular natural compositions. I simply meander, nothing more, and keep my microphone recording so that I may later relive the various flavors of the sublime which I invariably encounter.”

The air conditioner in the dilapidated room that passed for an office (medical, no less!) was making such jagged and cleverly stilted shrieks and pops that I found it difficult to focus on the far more mundane visage of the exhausted man.

He sighed and rubbed his seemingly-ever-growing eyebrows.

“I don’t believe that your situation is solvable within the scope of medical knowledge.”

“That’s alright.”

My family would not be happy at this turn of events. They were all very successful and quite confused. Any attempt to share my recordings would doubtless fail as listeners realized they were hearing nothing more than the sounds of their ever-uninteresting surroundings. Well, it’s no skin off my ear — I accept the weight of this mischievous secret, that through the blind paw of fate I live a life of endless art.

I traipsed out of the office. Smiling. Listening.