As I step into the undersized side room of the middle-school office, I want to remove my high heels. I want to kneel on the thin, brown carpet and touch my forehead to the ugly floor. I want to offer up a soft song. Because when I—a teacher’s assistant for twenty-five twelve-year-olds—cross the threshold of this room, it is as though I have entered a prayer chapel, a sacred space, a stone monastery on the cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea, where cerulean waves skate onto shore and blend with my breaths of thanksgiving.
Except, I am inside the copy room, and instead of the ocean waves, in this place, the Xerox creates the steady ebb and flow of sound that slows my breathing. The ink jet metrically zips right to left, performing a spirited but composed ostinato, while the contraption’s inner mechanics drone on beneath it. Then the zipping stops, and with a slow sigh, the mammoth, metal machine births a freshly pressed document. The jet readies again and repeatedly performs its piece, until a ream of pristine paper piles neatly on the printer’s tray.
When I am outside of this sectioned-off sanctity, a relentless pulse of percussive sound batters my brain; throughout the day, elated shrieks and heated screams eddy inside my eardrums. But in this room, in this 10x10 cube without windows, there are no assailing sounds, no children’s cacophonous soprano cries or teachers’ tenor orders. Through these walls, not even the hushed chuckle of birds can be heard.
Here, I am alone, and while the Xerox quiets between jobs, all I know or remember is silence— the deliciousness of unhurried air molecules. I collect my papers with a rustle and even their edges against the small, cherry table, stopping briefly to savour the quiescence. Then, I press in my order for another round. Like a high-pitched metronome, the machine beeps four times and the incense of ink rises to proclaim the glory of Job Two. With a whirr and a sputter, the Xerox wakes and begins to pump with smooth, steady movement across the sea of white pages. Once more, I am mesmerized by its fixed rhythm, by that rare gift of precision. The mechanical sound blooms inside the modest room and washes over me like a psalm, as each word is printed onto paper—each sweet and silent word.

Image design by Atanas Bozdarov, from a photo by Heartwork.