An Attempted Explanation

Today is the day we have been anticipating all semester. Every notebook page filled with unintelligible scribbles led us here. All of our ideas and thoughts begging to be shouted to the world. Some thoughts more important, more desperate to be shared, others would rather stay hidden, but need to be said.

Students gather in the small, dimly lit theater. The brightest light already focused on the lone microphone at center stage. It waits there for its first victim. Somehow it wears a smile that seems inviting, but promises something akin to torture. That microphone will feel the pain that radiates through the words of students who will voluntarily share their souls with the world.

“Poetry is meant to be shared.” That’s what Mrs. Hechlik always tells us. I think she means to be encouraging, but it just leaves me with a strangely protective feeling in my gut. I need to protect the words that mean so much. I can’t share my poetry; it would mean I would have to admit to the world that I have real emotions. Those don’t need to be shared; well, some of them don’t. Some people might think I’m overly humble, but no one would understand even if I tried explaining everything. So, why should I expect anyone in this room to understand that when I step on that stage and open my mouth, I am releasing secrets I’ve been keeping from everyone, including myself?

It’s not until I look at the list of brave souls that I remember that I asked to be one of the first. The reason I asked, well, she’s not here. If I don’t constantly remind her of things, she will forget. As much as I want my mom to hear the words I will later spill, I’m glad she’s not here. Having her here would make this that much harder. I would get on stage and see her and watch as she hears the feelings I’ve been bottling up. She would see the tears that will most likely stream down my face, but she wouldn’t believe me, anyway.

My nerves drown out the speakers before me. I flex and relax my hands over and over trying to stop them from shaking. My knees bounce up and down rapidly in anticipation. I really need to have faith that the crowd here understands what I’m about to say. I’ve never said this to anyone for fear that they won’t understand, that I won’t make sense. It’s always been difficult for me to say things, especially the things I should say, but I’ve never had enough faith in myself to be able to explain it correctly.

“Up next we have Courtney Gage and her poem ‘An Attempted Explanation.’”

“Crap,” I mutter to myself before taking a deep, shaky, breath and heading to the stage. My friends in the audience shout words of encouragement as I slowly take my place, not ready for this, but I guess I have to be now.

“Um, Hi. My name is Courtney, and this poem is called ‘An Attempted Explanation.’” Awesome, I already sound like an idiot. There is no way these people are going to believe me now, especially with the way my hands are shaking. I should have just memorized this thing, but I probably would have forgotten it when I got up here. I just have to hope I can get through this without dropping to the floor. I have to hope that my message makes sense, hope that I make sense. I take a deep breath, and force myself to continue.

“Alexithymia, noun; the inability to express one’s feelings.” More like inability to communicate with true dialogue, heck, even not at all. Goodbye primordial right.  My mind goes blank. I have to focus on the page; I’m not really sure if words are coming out of my mouth. I guess it makes sense that I forgot to remind my mom about today. Most of the time, I can’t even answer the simplest of questions.

“Don’t force these questions on me.

The reaction in my brain

Creates a tidal wave of panic causing

The lump in my throat

To block the sound

Of my voice”

I don’t know where to look. The paper in my hand is shaking as if my arm were a tree branch and the paper a leaf. Am I still breathing? I think I might be. It’s like every difficult conversation I can’t have, only instead of talking to one person, I’m talking to fifty. Nothing will change if I can’t stop this fear of saying the wrong thing. Maybe I don’t want change. Maybe I’ve been thinking too critically, to the point of stopping change from occurring. I’ve been stopping myself from ever being able to effectively communicate.

“My brain believes that every word

Must be chosen carefully and specifically

For a better purpose

But the only adjectives I have

Are profanities,

“I” the only noun,

A skip-skipping record in my head.”

I can feel it: I’m crying. That is exactly what I didn’t want to do. I can’t breathe again. I’m shaking so much my voice must sound like I’m talking into a fan. I can’t stop. I have to finish this. I just really have to hope that they can still understand me. I hope that everyone here realizes that the reason that tears are streaming down my face is because I am finally releasing the things that have been weighing on my mind for so long.

“‘Just tell me!’

‘I’m trying!’

But the answers are now gone,

Replaced by the pathetic whimpering

Tears streaming down my face,

The disturbing sniffles

That attempt to draw back in

The slimy evidence of my frustrations.”

Almost done. Just a few more lines and I can go hide in a hole for the rest of the day, or the rest of my life. As I say the final words I feel lighter somehow, almost like I’m floating.

“Thank you.” I quickly step off the stage and to the row my friends are sitting in. I guess, that even though I wasn’t able to say what I needed to the right person, at least I said it. A weight has been lifted off my chest, my breathing now in control. Hopefully, someone out there understands what I’ve said. I feel like someone who was oppressed and unable to speak and who finally got the right to speak up. Everything, and yet nothing, has changed.

The next day the prizes are awarded to participants of the Poetry Slam. I won the top prize: “Most Emotional Poem.” So maybe someone really did understand.


An Attempted Explanation

 

Alexithymia, noun;

The inability to express one’s feelings.

 

“How are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I don’t know.”

“How can you be failing?”

“I don’t know!”

“What is wrong with you?”

“I DON’T KNOW! IDON’T KNOW!”

 

I don’t know how to tell you I’m not okay.

I don’t know how to tell you I’m angry with you.

I don’t know how to tell you I’m not as smart as you think I am.

I don’t know how to say what I’m feeling

What I’m thinking.

 

Don’t force these questions on me.

The reaction in my brain

Creates a tidal wave of panic causing

The lump in my throat

To block the sound

Of my voice

 

This laryngitis is brought upon

By serious and debilitating

Bouts of frustration that force

My brain into an unending

Loop of distress

The only thoughts left are those

That continue to choke

Me and spread my paralysis.

 

My brain believes that every word

Must be chosen carefully and specifically

For a better purpose

But the only adjectives I have

Are profanities,

“I” the only noun,

A skip-skipping record in my head.

 

“Just tell me!”

“I’m trying!”

But the answers are now gone,

Replaced by the pathetic whimpering

Tears streaming down my face,

The disturbing sniffles

That attempt to draw back in

The slimy evidence of my frustrations.

 

“Stop Crying.”

I can’t.

I can’t do this.

I can’t tell you.

I’m afraid you won’t like the answer.

I’m afraid you will make this my fault.

I’m afraid you won’t understand.

You never do.

You laugh in my face

And tell me to

“Stop being so Over Dramatic.”

All you ever do is tell me to get over it.

 

I’m tired of trying to

Find the right words,

It’s time to find the wrong ones.

 

“What do you want for dinner?”

“I don’t know.”

 

Courtney Gage

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Filed under Fall 2016, Nonfiction 2016, Poetry 2016

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