A Story About Forgetting What Your Voice Sounds Like


The voice was belittled. It was made small and delicate; it was modeled after its owner’s body. She did not take up space, and her words did not either. It shrunk with her; it scattered to the corner of the room, where it lay shaking and whispering sweet nothings. Its words had no staying power; they did not hold like sticky tape or glue. They were ethereal, like wilted flowers in the sun. They were a shadow caught in the light; they dissipated, like snow on fingertips.

The voice was trampled under hiking boots that stomped down on it from above, squishing it, crushing it. It was like glass. It was dropped from great heights and it shattered into a gazillion pieces—only thin slivers of it remained. It couldn’t be heard. It flitted about in the branches and flirted with the outside world. It emerged and then sunk away again, hurriedly, into ocean depths, past forgotten isles of other voices—it sank forty feet into the ocean and met Port Royale. It entombed itself within Cleopatra’s underwater palace, within her sepulcher.

The voice was restrained, it was drugged, it was kept in confinement. It was sectioned away from society. It was bore down upon with criticism. It was the smallest flicker of a candle in the deadest, darkest night. It was shaken with fright.

It belonged to a girl on the floor of a psychiatric hospital, shivering in a stranger’s nightgown, crying because she wasn’t allowed home to collect her own clothes. Its whimpering protestations was met by the bellow of a nurse who screamed at the girl, who tried to lift the girl’s body by her elbow, attempting to pull her towards her bed. A nurse who shouted and screamed that the girl was crying too loudly, that the other patients couldn’t sleep.

It was silenced then, when its owner tried to complain about its ordeal and was told that the voice was spouting lies. The other voice had not threatened it. The other voice had been nothing but respectful; the fingermarks on its owner’s elbow were self-inflicted. The voice protested, but it was overruled by the loud voices of supposed authorities, of nurses who persisted in their belief that the girl had made it up. The voice was the meaningless drivel of a madwoman, the Cassandra of the modern era with dirty unwashed locks and raving, wandering eyes.

The voice was utterly silenced. It was beaten, and it lay down to rest, to die.

And then it erupted, a dormant volcano not yet extinct. It spewed at first, fiery hate towards those that had trampled on it. It felt it was the true embodiment of rage, anger in its purest form, the words that spiraled out of it burning its recipients like molten lava. It cooled off.

It became the fumarole from the pyroclastic flow. It floated upwards to greet the heavens; it felt joy, it was free. It spiraled back down to earth, whooping and hooting. It sprang past the mountains and the oceans and the forests. It was the perfect mirror of its owner—the same girl. The same voice. It was still frightened and anxious sometimes. But it took up more space, just like she did. It stepped tentatively into that space; it was unsure of how to proceed. But it recognized itself, and it knew it was deserving of a seat at the table.