Still and Silent
By: Threa Almontaser
Laughter fills the classroom like the sting of bees.
No. More like a hoard of wasps.
I lower deeper into my seat, hunching and stiffening.
Barren goes up to hand in a sheet of paper. On his way back, he throws a wad of chewed up gum at me.
More laughter. A mellow voice asking for everyone to settle down.
My stomach makes the sound of a whale when it’s being murdered. I pull my sleeves farther down and wince, hiding the signs of quiet colors on my body. I’m a cracked, covered canvas.
“Everyone stand near their art pieces. The showing is about to start!” Ms. Small announces.
I walk slowly to my covered painting. Stand like a stone. So stiff you know it’s from somewhere deep inside me. Still and silent in the crowd of murmurs and exclamations and chaos.
“Would you like to go first Sam?”
My head says no as I swallow thickly.
“How about after Maggie?”
I test words in my mind. Mutter them under my breath. I try, I really do. I try so hard, but….
I sigh in defeat as my shoulders shift in a shrug. My hair moves down to cover my eyes, saying ‘sure’.
As everyone gathers around Noel’s painting, Dogs in Space, I glare at my paint covered fingers, caked in black and purple, blue and red.
Hurt colors. Crying colors.
I remember how my brother, Jeff, shoved me away when I tried to follow him around with his friends after school, afraid to be alone. Not willing to stay home with him.
“Go away Sam!” And then, quieter, “You’re embarrassing.”
My face had bloomed red from the tips of my toes to my flame bright hair.
And then just the other day, when he had tried again to find my voice.
“Piece o’shit. Why don’t you talk? You broken? T’h’hell is wrong wit you…”
The stench of sick and lonely filled the air. I frowned. My frown had murmured, “I can’t.” It whispered, “My words get stuck.”
But now I smile.
Today will be different, I think in my silent way.
Today, even if my voice quivers and shakes, my hands will speak for me. My colors will do all the talking.
“Okay Sam, let’s see what you’ve got,” Ms. Small declares enthusiastically.
My classmates gather around. I take a deep breath and I’ve suddenly gulped up all the air in the room.
I swipe away the white sheet and now everyone else gobbles up the air.
And that’s the moment I speak in the only way I know how.
The little boy with no face hunched in a small corner is saying, “Help me.”
He begs, “Hide me.”
He pleads, “See me.”
The large demeaning shadow beside him with a paw of a hand outstretched is mocking.
“Stupid,” it screams.
“Mute,” it shrieks.
“Broken boy,” it declares.
The shock of red hair shouts, “Look at me!”
The blue of his face yells, “Hear me!”
The harsh lines and rough splattered surfaces chime in, “I’m here. I’m real.”
The colors don’t pause or stiffen or stutter. They are loud and true and bold.
No laughter now. No more jokes. No more, “Stuttering Sam” or “Stupid Sammy.”
They are quiet. Attentive. Reading my picture of a thousand words.
These gestures and strokes are received with wide eyes and sorry faces.
Today is different, the voice in my head says.
Today, I speak.
Today, I am heard.