My father asks me if I’m okay. I smile and say yes. Bus driver asks me if I’m okay. I smile and say yes. Math teacher asks me if I’m okay seeing as how my brother died the day before. I say yes. He persists a little more asking if I want to go to the counselor. I decline. A year later I’m sitting in the same math class with the same teacher. My grades start to slip. He asks me, I know your brother died around this time last year, are you okay? I smile and say… yes. Drama teacher stops and asks me if I’m okay. I smile and say yes.
Maybe some people did notice, more than I thought anyway. Although nobody ever did much else. Creative writing teacher tells me I’m such a good writer I should write for hallmark. 3 years in a row. English teacher tells me I’m such a talented poet. I should be a writer. But nobody pushed it along. Nobody tried to help guide me this direction. I suppose at 15 I was just expected to know how to become something. Many people asking if I’m okay… yeah sure. If okay means I’m about to smash the mirror across from me by bashing my head into it or sink into a depression so deep miners wouldn’t think it safe. If okay means I’m screaming on the inside “don’t listen to her!!” After I’ve been asked for the billionth time if I am okay, as my lips curl up into a smile and I say.. yes. Help me I am trapped in here. Could you not see? I’m so loud the screaming rings in my ears. How did nobody notice? Why didn’t I ask for help if that’s what I wanted? Perhaps because I never had a voice.
When I write I can say anything, do anything. I can be anybody and tell any story I want to. This was my only way of expression but I kept it locked away. See, I grew up being the person that everybody close to me could talk to. I’m the only one that could understand, they said. I’m such a good listener, they said. I’m such a good friend, they said. You can depend on me. I will bend for you until I break. I will give and give trying to make you happy, forgetting that I myself need to find my own happiness. I was the person you could come to for anything, say anything to. I would help you. I wouldn’t judge you. It made people so happy to have someone that they could trust and open up to that it didn’t cross their minds that maybe I wanted to connect as well. The times I tried to speak nobody actually listened and as the years passed, me trying became few and far between. “Just stay silent. Nobody cares what you have to say anyway.” My mind echoed to itself. Writing was my escape. But eventually… when all that was left of me was a shell of a person I could not even write. Years spent unable to say anything even to myself. Stay silent. Nobody cares what you have to say anyway. Not even yourself. My voice had been hushed. My voice had been, “not right now.” It had been pushed so far down and locked away I forgot it even existed. I didn’t recall ever having one.