I can still feel the grittiness of the hallway carpet as I rubbed it’s worn shag pile fibres ritualistically through the trembling fingers of my left hand. I was trying to build up the courage to fix my problem; the route of all my problems.
The forbidden scissors were clenched so tightly in my right fist the cold blades dug into my skin. I stared at the girl in the mirror before me and tried to imagine what her reflection would look like, without her tongue.
Would my parents be angry if the blood permanently stained the off white carpet? Would it hurt? Would I be able to stop myself from screaming with the pain if it did? Can you even scream when you don’t have a tongue anymore?
I wanted to cut it off so badly that I couldn’t imagine it hurting worse than the humiliation of having it in the first place. After all, you can’t say anything stupid without a tongue, can you?
I was at my wits end, I didn’t know how else to possibly get us to shut up, to stop humiliating ourself by speaking, always incessantly speaking. We could talk underwater, they’d say. And we could, I’d tried it. I really didn’t mean to be like that, I didn’t want to be a chatterbox, I didn’t want to disrupt my classmates or to talk over people. It just happened. Again and again and I hated it, I hated myself.
We were probably about 7 at the time, back when our understanding of consequences was a tad limited. I had heard about people having their tongues cut out to shut them up on some old satirical comedy show my Dad watched, probably Black Adder or the like. It was gross but also seemed like the perfect solution.
This it would also force us to be quiet. Forever. And it also meant we’d have to stop eating so maybe we wouldn’t be so fat anymore. Two birds with one cut, the kids at school might not hate me so much if I was skinny and quiet.
I had stolen the sacred “good scissors” from my mothers sewing kit the day before hand hidden them in my room. Fuelled by the determination of a thousand warriors I sat in front of that mirror for what seemed like hours, but every time I slipped my tongue between the blades, squeezed my eyes shut and got ready to do it, I chickened out at the last second. Tongues are slippery beasts and they’re surprisingly strong and hard to handle, even when it’s your own, even when you think you know what you want.
Not being able to permanently disfigure myself was far more devastating than it should have been, we eventually gave up on tongue removal and focused more on physical punishments and detailed plans to end our life as coping strategies.
If only I’d been braver, perhaps I wouldn’t be in the mess I find myself in right now. If I’d just made that cut, things would have been different. Better? I know the real answer to that and yet I can’t help but entertain the ‘what if’s’ that whirl so incessantly around my exhausted mind.
An email had appeared in my inbox today and as I read the words in front of me my soul had dropped through my feet, taking with it my heartbeat and my breath; sadness welled from somewhere deep inside and all I could think was “again? Really?”
Shame is the worst of all the feelings.
The email was a referral letter, one that had missed the mark somewhat. Perhaps we were misquoted, or had we just poorly explained the situation? Or maybe the truth is exactly what we feared. In any case, we should never have spoken up, for it’s what’s written between the lines that says the most.
Being accused, judged, seen as weak, incompetent, dumb, a time waster… I’m not doing it again. This letter just highlighted how utterly pitiful our existence is and always has been.
Hypochondriac. Time waster. Attention seeker. Annoying. Humour her to shut her up…
They weren’t the words used but believe me, I understand the shorthand. Why did I ever bring it up? My face caught fire and I felt the decades melt away until I was seven years old again, staring at my reflection, too weak to amputate my evil serpent tongue, too weak to save myself from myself.
I think a part of me is still locked inside that mirror from my childhood, the one that had seen so many things over the years, now forever haunted by our darkest ghosts.
The letter in front of me burned through the screen as though it’s just been plucked from the deepest pits of Hell by Satan himself. “You’re still a broken piece of shit” it sneers. Shame cuts me in two and the screeching of demons laughing in my head becomes a deafening cacophony of 1000 possible futures, all flashing before me at once, each more terrible and more humiliating than the last.
I burst into tears “Keep it up, fuckwit.” Even the demons are fed up with me now. I beg any God listening for the cool reprieve of instant death but it doesn’t come. I’m trapped, I must suffer for eternity in this body, this mind, with this mouth and this terrible, terrible tongue. Painfully immortal, and for reasons I cannot fathom I still can’t seem to stop talking.
Why can’t I just stop?
The scars etched and burned into our skin by internal demons and saviours alike over time were not just punishments but reminders to try and prevent further hurt like this. But 30 years have passed and it seems we are unchangeable. No matter what We will always just be the fat ugly attention seeking child who doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up.
Hello darkness, my old friend.
I was reminded quite suddenly in the midst of writing this post about my favourite version of the song The Sound of Silence (thank you A – who has the most incredibly apt timing with these things). I had no intention of publishing these ramblings, instead a painful moment in time to be stacked in the dusty corners of my drafts folder with the others, left alone in ironic silence.
Something A said reminded me of why We came here in the first place, why writing is so important to us. Here I don’t have to be quiet. Here, I can shout. I can YELL and SCREAM and speak aloud all the things we are supposed to hold inside.
If you don’t want to hear it, you don’t have to. There’s no need to be polite, this is the internet in all its anonymous glory and you get to walk away without any pressure to stay or reply or act like you care if you don’t. You can choose to be here or not of your own free will. Here we can talk/type until our fingers bleed and it’s not hurting anyone; unless they want it to.
Here, we are free.
We’re oddly comforted by your words… we too don’t know how to shut up… we relate.
sounds more like something that would be discussed, and at length, by the Derry Girls, check them out if yous aren’t familiar…. and as for the tongue, well…
the tongue said to the mouth one day, I have had enough, just let me play, you always shut me up and get your own way, so I’m going out, to town and will do it my way…
… the tongue packed her bags and pulling on her boots started singing…
… these boots are made for walking….
…. I hear that Nancy Sinatra does a good cover…
… get yer boots on and let’s hear ya’s…
… so, so glad yous are back, I’ve missed yous and I bet I’m not alone too….
I love the audacity of ‘Why Not’
I love the audacity of ‘Why Not’
it’s the trailor for Paint Your Wagon