Mouth Shut, Mind Shouting
Illustrated by Maggie Zeng
You inhale hastily.
Trembling hand pushes hair behind ear;
It’s time to speak.
But you can’t.
A million thoughts run through your mind simultaneously, thorns pricking its surface:
What if I mess up; what if everyone hates me; I know I will, I know they do; they probably think I’m so weird.
Including impatient barks of logic:
What the hell are you doing? There’s nothing to be afraid of!
But there is.
God, there is; if there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be feeling like this.
And in an attempt to shut all them all up—
No sound escapes your chapped lips.
Your pale, frozen hands are shaking.
At the fear of having your voice quiver, you clamp your mouth shut, but in doing so, realize you’re forgetting to breathe.
Just breathe, you tell yourself.
You focus on your breath; in, out, in out – way too fast; you’re hyperventilating. It feels like your lungs are going to break, every inhale desperate, like you’re running out of air, like the oxygen surrounding you is actually water, as black and consuming as the thoughts racing in your skull. Your heart is pounding in your chest, so loud, so fast, ramming itself against your ribcage over and over and over again until the only thing you can hear is the bloody pounding in your ears, making your head throb, drowning out your thoughts, your short quick breaths, and any semblance of any other sound—
Until your conscience breaks through the red, pulsing fog:
Just CALM DOWN.
Fingernails dig into the palm of your sweaty hand, sure to leave red marks. You don’t dare take a peek at the tiny pink crescents you know are there, feeling ashamed for causing yourself pain.
You shiver, the sweat slicked over your body combining with the air-conditioned atmosphere to make you feel as ill as you sometimes think your mind is.
“Are you okay?” you hear someone ask.
They look worried, confused, brow furrowed,
They definitely think you’re a freak.
“Yeah,” you lie. Your voice is muted, shaky, broken. Weak.
You utter one word, and it still manages to be everything you wish it hadn’t been.
Your ice-cold hands cover your face, attempting to cool down your now red-hot, set aflame cheeks.
You sigh in defeat.
Maybe, next time, you shouldn’t attempt speech.