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“You always know what to say”

I’m almost tempted to accept the compliment, were it not for all the “excepts” running around in my head. Suddenly I feel like I’m in college again, during my British history exam. It was a demanding subject and the teacher was known for being fair with grades, but notoriously tough. I chocked. I was so terrified that even the things I knew started dissolving into each other until they became a mush – jumbled up facts that seemed to connect to each other at some level, but I just couldn’t follow the red thread.

Back then, I thought of the experience as a failure to myself – I’d always been an A student and had never, ever chocked in my entire 12 years of schooling – now I know better to call it what it really was, a panic attack in the face of an approach that was anything but supportive of the learning experience. But the teacher didn’t care and kept pounding me with questions and “excepts”. It went pretty much like this: he’d ask a question and I’d think for a bit, then give what I convinced myself was an acceptable answer in the end. He’d look at me and say: “Yes, except when it wasn’t”, “Sure, except when they didn’t”, “I would agree with you, except when he wasn’t”. I left the room almost crying, my colleagues could barely recognise me and I was literally gasping for air.

My answers were correct, except when they weren’t. I still don’t know what those exceptions were dependant on. How cold it was outside that day maybe? (if my memory serves me, it had been one of the coldest days that winter)  I digress, though.

I always know what to say. Except when I don’t – when it matters the most. That’s when the right words obstinately refuse to present themselves. Scared. Proud. Sad. Angry. Exhausted. Unsure. Whatever the reason, they’re missing, hiding and leaving me to fend for myself in silence. As if that ever helped! Then again, how else can you listen if not by being silent?


by Alex Wong, via unsplash.com

I may always know what to say, but you never showed up. And the skies are heavy with clouds and the air smells of never ending rain.