She tries to be vulnerable without the sound. Sensitive, they used to call her. They always smiled when they said it—a pitying, cloying smile, one that said she had failed to achieve something. The hardness that made them “worthy” escaped her. She was “sensitive.” Soft.
When she was younger she hid her teeth in a painfully tight smile. She had learned—she wasn’t certain where—that some smiles were perfect and hers did not qualify. One tooth overlapped the other just so, but the overlap was enough. It said that she was imperfect, and imperfect was ugly, and ugly was unworthy. She did not long for their lighter skin, but she did long for something that could hide her better.
She didn’t belong with them. Where did she come from? She was misplaced, an error that would not right. She couldn’t hide, couldn’t be large or small enough. She stuck out, a convenient tabula rasa to hold her rage. She hit her and hit her and only stopped when she began to bleed.
Men stared at her, even when she was a girl. They said it was what men did. Sometimes they said that. Mostly they said nothing at all. She was prescribed larger clothing to hide herself better.
Scars do not heal the way people say. Sometimes they are too deep to scab, and when picked they can bleed forever. All of her scars are deep; she wonders if they comprise the whole of her. Who would she be without them? They are comfortable and they know her best of all.
She does not easily release past slights. They cling to her and make her what she is, and occasionally the memory of one will pierce her and she will revisit her own quiet. She will pick it until it bleeds and all she sees is red.
She wants to be needed. The sense of need centers her and gives her purpose. She is available when others need her.
She is alone, though, in her need.
The words she searches for were written in a journal once. She has sent them in varying order, in time before. Her heart beat heavy and wild in her throat as she slid them into the mail, anticipating the call. There would be a call, she was certain. Whether she would answer, she was less certain.
She imagined that the release from handing the accusation to her in that manner would free her from the cord that replenished a steady stream of poison into her. A niggling feeling of latent worthlessness, needlessness, the we’ll be just fine without you of it all.
She never felt that release and the call did not come.
Instead, silence. Not the pregnant pause before a friend comes calling, the pause before conversation continues when all is quiet and an angel is supposedly close overhead.
The endless silence that may last forever.
It is broken, eventually, but never in the way it should be broken. She gets the call and it is as though a conversation was being held without her. Never an, “I got your letter.” Never an, “I’m on my way, let’s talk.”
Never an, “I’m sorry.”
It isn’t the words that she wants anyway. The empty platitude reserved for children who are trying to sate nagging parents.
She wants the feeling. She wants to hear the exhalation, the backwash of the poison.
She wants more time.
How fitting that she has gone to a place where she cannot reach her. She cannot get her due.
She will be memorialized as more than she was, and she cannot be touched now.
Only the wind offers the faint apology, its light fingers grazing her cheeks.
All of the things that tethered her to the world will be divided up and carted off, each of them claiming a tangible piece of her, biting their tongues. She wants to say something—to speak of her as she was—but sensitive, they call her.
She shares with them rare stories of palpable love and a wicked humor.
Vacations and boyfriends and survival. Endurance.
She did have to be survived. And endured.
The black of the memories are hers to keep.