• Wamaitha

The Writer With No Voice

I was never shy, not in the least. I spoke loud and proud about my interests to anyone who would listen. And if they dared challenge my views, I gave them the best fucking argument I could. My mother always said I argued way too much for my own good but I know I got it from her. Friends and family praised my charisma and quirky humor. Some people didn't get it but I didn't mind. I was an acquired taste and that made me feel more exotic, more appealing, dare I say bewitching?

But for some reason, when I stepped up to the podium to read the words I had slaved over for hours and hours my mouth ran dry. Stammers and quivering fingers superseded my once confident and composed state and I had no control. Blank thoughts filled my brain and I froze.

I wasn't giving a speech to an audience thousands, I was simply there to summarize a community service trip which I recently returned from and encourage a group of roughly 100 students. Majority of whom were younger than me and an even larger percentage of those were simply waiting for the slide show to see what kind of music I was going to play.

Somehow these adolescent pupils unnerved me, anxiety debilitated me and I could no longer read the words in front of me. Words of my experience, in a font of my own choosing somehow flustered me. The back of my mind knew I could recite whatever anecdote I wanted and get away with it, after all I went on that trip alone. Whose to say what really happened in Cambodia? I barely scraped by, rushing and skipping over words, apologizing for my temporary illiteracy and hoping that it wouldn't be brought up in any of my classes that day. All whilst regrettably acknowledging that it would be all anyone would speak with me about for the next 12 hours.

Years later, I have written essays, short stories and the occasional emotional break-up letter. But the same predicament lay before me each time. I could never read them in public. Perhaps I hated my reading voice; it was deep and not in a sultry-raspy-Amy-Winehouse type of way it was just deep and flat. Whenever I read, the voice in my brain never stuttered so why did I? Was it fear that they wouldn't like what they heard? Was I self sabotaging so that at least my failures was due to me incoherent voice as opposed to my lack of talent? Was I being far too critical over a simple case of the butterflies?

The answer to all of these is yes, and the answer is also no. I was afraid, but not of the audience. They were far too easy to please. The real, unwavering, relentless critic that was paying enough attention to catch every single error was up on the podium with me the whole time and I was afraid of what she would do if I sucked.



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