Mute

My fellow students and I sit on our hard, misshapen school chairs-each of us trying our best to copy the indecipherable script of the teacher's notes. The curvy lettering blends together in a pointless mess of loopy markings. I cannot discern the word following 'incarceration'. Glancing at my neighbor's diligent note taking, I find that she too is unable to decode the hieroglyphics gracing the whiteboard. Nobody inquires as to the nature of the word. No one dares to speak. There is no fear of reprimand; there is a fear of waste. The humming of the ancient air-conditioning is the only sound that permeates the classroom.

A girl opens the heavy wooden door to the room clumsily as her elbow clunks painfully against the doorframe. Her ponytail is amiss. Her arms and legs are spotted with emerging purple stains and fading green ones. She is beaten-there is no doubt. But once again, no one says a thing. Class began thirty minutes ago. The teacher fixes the girl with a disappointed glare. It is, however, lost on the girl who ambles towards her desk with eyes fixed fiercely upon her feet. As she motions to sit down her knee gives way, and she tumbles to the floor. Her face lands frontally with the carpet, as stray hairs and dirt stick to her dry, chapped lips.

She shrieks, a sound as shrill as the departing bell. The accumulating embarrassment is too much for her. Tears cascade freely, symbolizing the very thing that we are not. Students do their best to ignore her outburst, but their reserve is broken when she begins to speak.

"Why?" she wails in desperation. One. "Why?" she repeats. Two. "Why oh why!?" Three. Four. Five. Students around me bite their nails, clueless as to what to do. The teacher drops her pen. It lands softly on the ground, uncapped. I imagine the pen withering, as the surrounding air drains the moisture from the marker. In my mind it becomes brittle and skeletal-a figment of what it once was, prior to careless abandonment. The teacher has come to rest beside the girl. Hands are darting around in a futile attempt to soothe without words-to express silently. The girl repeats the question over and over, a broken record. Half-moon imprints blush angrily upon my palms. I had not noticed the nervous way in which my fingers clenched and calves tightened. My heels are pressed together.

The teacher is frantic. She opens her mouth to speak, but quickly closes it again. I'm reminded of the goldfish I had for a week before it mysteriously died. The fish floats belly-up across the waters of memory. I hasten up from my paralyzed position as if to clear my mind. No one heeds my movement, and I take this as encouragement to continue. The teacher has clamped her hand over the girl's mouth to thwart her words. It only makes the girl scream louder, though her words are muffled beyond recognition. I walk past this scene. I walk out the door and into the school hallway. There is no call for me to return. Had someone noticed my departure, I still would not have heard a single utterance. People do not fritter away words on such matters.

There are innumerable doors that line the corridor. The longer I stare, the more the doors extend, as if they are stretching out like putty. I feel an overwhelming sense of loss because I cannot ask for direction. Even I understand this. My legs bid me foreword, and shakily I obey. Feet pad softly as I walk this ulterior stratum. I exist in the median between heaven and hell-bliss and misery. My fingers graze the brass doorknobs as I pass, but I do not enter. There is a light from afar, peaking its way into my eyes. I draw my fingers across my face. Where this illumination and I meet, there are two metal doors. Their paint is chipped and they are framed with windows that taunt the detained students. I push them open. Nothing is holding me back today, though there is hypocrisy swirled within that statement. My mouth remains dutifully shut.

I travel the concrete path towards the suburban neighborhoods that surround the school, like moths to a flame. A man is sprinkling his lawn. Water pours freely from the yellow hose, and there is no concern about conservation. He stands in plaid shorts and a beaten straw hat. His button down shirt hangs open, revealing the gray hairs that powder his chest. A youthful shudder tingles down my spine, and I would smile at the hilarity of the situation if one element were not missing. A whistle. This man, in his clashing attire and retired tasks does not whistle. The moment is incomplete. He peers at me strangely, but refrains from inquiring why I am not at school. The question is as absent as the trill I wish would ring from his pursed mouth.

Somewhere the melodious sound of a piano tinkles in the mid-afternoon air. I find the music to be eerily hollow. The artist is attempting to bespeak through instrument what he will not verbalize through diction. He tells the heart aching story of a woman who trusted that her beloved had disserted her, so she tossed her body into the esurient waves of the ocean. But her precious one did adore her. He simply could not say the words and so he lost everything of value to him. A tragedy.

I continue on my way until I have reached beyond the outer limits of the community. Now I stand in the flawless fields of long grass and wild flowers. The enveloping greenery speaks to me. It has learned through centuries past to communicate without voice. The very lesson that I must parallel if I should survive on this earth. The foliage chatters of the approaching thunderclouds and rejuvenating rain. It hums softly in the sweetest of chimes. I respond to their conversation. My voice is rusty from disuse-destitute as the forsaken shack that haunts barren country. I try again to form the word. "Hello," I call out, though it will cost me. My greeting reverberates tenfold in the stale elevated air. I hear the salutation swarm me like loving arms. It is a sonance I have longed to grace my ears. I am free here. Nature has no idiosyncratic code of which I must abide. It is life and growth and death. And rebirth. It is the bread and water of existence.

I set my stance shoulder width apart and spread my arms wide. I become the bluebird who serenades without restraint, and I fly away.