Dry, Cracked lips and A Silent Voice
I hate recess. I hate school. But most of all, I hate my life. It’s November and it’s cold enough to glue my fingers to the monkey bars. I have found my usual outpost in between the towering pine trees on the border of the school’s playground. Twelve-year-old me is shivering to keep warm. Only a t-shirt protects me from the frigid air but a coat means I won't have a shot at being “cool”. It’s been exactly twelve years and three months since I’ve been “cool” which was, oh yeah, never. My arch nemesis stares me down from the top of the slide, and I swear if looks could kill, there would already be a grave with “Colin” etched into the cold, hard stone. He slithers down and stalks over to me, two groupies tailing.
I’m suddenly aware of my shaking fists and the fact that I’m chewing on the inside of my cheek.
“What’s your name again? Freak? Spook? Creature? Guess I don’t remember idiots like you,” he sneers.
Fingernails dig beyond my palm’s skin, and the taste of copper-penny blood coats my mouth. I just sit there taking insults, believing every word.
Emma, you’re a spaz. Emma, you’re disgusting trash. Emma, you’re a mistake.
The bell breaks the silence but the damage is done. A single tear traces a creek on my face, but I bury the pain before the creek becomes a river. My dried, cracked lips are sealed so as not to release the hideous beast with the word “Emotions” marking its forehead. People who are nothing don’t get the right to open their mouth. Just a beat-up Cinderella without a mouth to talk or the Little Mermaid with no voice to give.
Fast forward six years and I go from seeing myself as a “Creature” to a “Friend.” I have the same blonde hair, same blue eyes as I did six years ago, but my eyes are lit up and my mouth is open. It’s 7:46 on a typical Monday morning and I’m just chilling before school starts.
My eyes are lit up and I’m talking to a couple of friends, Kailey and Carson. “Maybe I should just try not talking for a day for that Composition challenge,” I say. Our teacher has assigned us to design a new experience and write about it.
Carson jokingly rolls his eyes at me and says, “Impossible. I don’t think you’re ever quiet, even for class.”
I come back with “Watch me. I won’t say a single word for 24 hours starting tomorrow.”
Kailey just laughs and says, “Good luck, you’re gonna need it.”
We pack up our bags and head to class with eight minutes to spare. Pure determination courses through my veins. If this challenge isn’t fun, it’ll sure be memorable.
The alarm on my phone goes off and I tap at it until it stops. It’s tough to find enough ambition to actually start my day, but when I do, I throw off the covers and wipe the groggy gunk from my eyes. I’m about to tell myself it’s only Tuesday but catch myself. The challenge. Starting now, I can’t talk for a full 24. Let the fun begin.
My morning starts out rough, but only gets worse at school. The questions are endless but I manage to keep my lips shut. I get to class and suffer through first block but barely make it out of second. My heart is thundering in my chest like a horse galloping and my eyes are darting around, unable to find a place to rest. I’m flooded with anxiety and can barely contain my chattiness. But, I make it home, do some homework, and clean my disaster of a room. Later that night, it’s time to hit the sack.
But I can’t sleep. My mind just travels back to that bone-freezing November day in 5th grade. The day I told myself I was nothing. The same day I silenced my own voice. Realization dawns on me: I am nothing without a voice. From this day forward I vow to appreciate every remark, word, and yes, even every voice-crack that comes from this mouth of mine. Without a voice, I am nothing.