a 4-part series of personal stories…
Part I – At first the words come slowly, when you finally begin to speak, or do you ever…?
Most of my childhood I stood around having nothing to say – from playground to street corner, lunch room to sports field. It began with complicity – selling my soul the first day of camp to land a best bed in the hub of the queen bees. I sat silent while the mean girls viciously teased the quiet ones. As fate would have it, I was benched alongside the quiet ones all summer long, last to be picked for every team.
In high school, I smoked cigarettes in the bathroom, dressed in hot pants and wedges. Social posturing was my crutch, I simply dressed for the part. I could capture an audience of fair weather friends without saying a word. But I was to fall from grace as quickly as I had risen. By the time I scrambled to rejoin the high school intelligentsia, it was too late. My old middle school friends knit tightly over their new common enemy – me. I had turned my back on them years earlier to quietly climb higher in the social hierarchy, eschewing intelligence for good looks and social capital.
Failure to speak cost me. In my loneliness, I tunneled inward. I mined for my voice. What could I express or create or say? I felt something brewing, but I was stuck.
As per usual, on the first day of 10th grade English, the teacher handed out blue lined paper and told us to write “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”. Every pencil scurried across its page. Not mine. My eyes darted about, horrified that I lacked the creative abandon of my peers. I tried to mimic their intention, writing anything that popped into my head only to erase it again and again ad infinitum. My mind raced, but time passed agonizingly slowly. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears and my fist hammering at the amnesia. A blank mind, nothingness. Writer’s block over how I spent my summer vacation. How unbelievable it was – I couldn’t remember anything about my summer or my life before the moment he gave us the assignment.
Filled with bubbling 10th grade embarrassment, humiliation, and frustration I placed my paper atop the pile as the bell rang – threadbare, but for flecks of pink eraser. Such is the nature of inertia that leaves nothingness in its wake – a white page, crossed out scribbles, balls of crumpled paper.
These were to become benchmarks of an endless struggle to express.