I often reflect back and reminisce my time in the jungle and realize how much of what I developed into is still with me here and now. By that, I mean all the habits I brought back with me. The habits that I didn’t know I had developed.

One of the loudest sounds one hears in the jungle is the sound that of a twig breaking under one’s foot. It usually happens at the worst possible moments. It happens to almost everyone. It’s a sound that is always followed by a look that says, “What the fuck? Are you trying to get us killed?” kind of look from the rest of the crew.

The old timers were completely used to finding the twigs that would make those sounds. They were also experts in finding the best camouflaged booby traps, too. They would even show us how to spot them by making those damn fishing line traps that would have killed the unknowing. Every time I’d go out on a walk and unintentionally step on a twig and break it, a chill runs down my back, even today.

The worst sound that I remember is the one that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It is a sound that some would prefer over the other kinds of noises. I didn’t know that I had developed this anxiety causing phenomena until it was brought to my attention by my wife.

One would assume that the jungle is a very noisy place. I’ve heard that open ocean divers say that under the water is a very noisy place and I assumed that the jungle would be very similar. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

If a predator was nearby, all the animals in the near vicinity becomes silent. When we were out on a job, I expected the local animals went silent to escape detection from us, the presumptive predator.

Every so often, we’d find a suitable place to settle in to wait for the bad guys to come our way. Eventually, the birds would start to sing again and other noises would come up reassuring us that everything was ok, that nothing bad was near. Until all the noises stop.

When all the noises stop, the lack of all auditory sensation is absolutely deafening. It is so loud that it hurts your entire body. It was the sign that said something bad was out there, close.

You wanted to maintain that silence, just like the birds and whatever else that was nearby. That just made it that much harder to tolerate the deafening silence. You’d hear your heartbeat in your ear and that was pretty loud, too, but even if it exploded inside you, you kept it silent.

Only after the first shots rang out, only after your body jerked from the loud explosion from one of the weapons you realize everything went back to normal. Then all the tolerable shouting and the yelling and all the sounds of a firefight finally releases you from the grip of the deafening silence.

I can’t find the strength to keep my house totally quiet like how my wife wants it to. I have to have some sort of ambient noises coming from somewhere. My wife knows the need I have of some sort of noise in our home and I appreciate that. I do my best to return her understanding of my needs, but I know she’ll never know how difficult it is for me to tolerate silence.

Silence Isn’t Golden