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In the Silence
I couldn’t stop the image that was flashing in my head of those red lips. I don’t know why it was the only image my mind would allow in its confines. I don’t even know why I was thinking about those blood red lips. But the more I thought about them, the more the image pixilated and became clearer. Pearly, white teeth created a stark distinction against the flaming lips. The mouth those lips belonged to was hanging open like an invitation of sorts, holding a single scrap of paper.
Black ink swam down the scrap of crisp paper, drawing my eyes along the swirl of the lettering and the eerie dripping pattern they made. Five distinct letters, all written as one, spelled out one single declaration, the swirls connecting each letter by a scratchy and unsteady line.
This image, so real and so alive, kept maneuvering around in my head, back and forth, occasionally taking a left, sometimes a right.
I wanted to stop thinking about it, though. I wanted to stop trying to figure out the meaning behind the picture that kept popping up in my head again and again like a slideshow with a single photo, put on repeat.
So I just kept walking. I watched my feet as they made step after step on the faux-marble floors of the school hallway. And as I did that, I closed my mind so all it saw was a vision of the black night. Each step I took, the darker my mind got and the louder the slurs became. I had to ignore those, too.
The taunting and the jeering happened every day. Whispers seemed to magnify whenever I heard my name. I could even feel the stares of their judging eyes on my back. They beat down on me like a scorching sun and I could actually feel the heat crawling up my back. I started to sweat and pant, still unused to being an outcast by mistake. I needed air. And I needed it now.
Quickly, I changed course, shuffling through the student body with my head down. As I tried blocking every nasty word being yelled at me, those red lips swooped back into my thoughts, exactly the same image that had appeared last time. There was no understanding smile that would help me deal with my peers. Just the same lips with the same teeth and that damn piece of paper.
My feet finally led me to the courtyard doors—my gateway to freedom. I opened them in a rush and walked outside breathing in the untainted air. I no longer had the strength to deal with these people, these insults, these accusations. Day after day I dealt with their version of the truth and day after day I crumbled a little more. None of what they said was true, yet I always took the fall. I stood before them like a martyr and let them yell because either way I lost. Either way I couldn’t win.
Sitting down in the shade, I leaned back against a tree. I could feel the grooves of the bark indenting into my back and the pokes and the prods it made actually helped relieve some tension. I closed my eyes and relaxed, letting the wind blow into my face and calm my racing heart. The image reappeared and I stared. Without any light, I was able to see. It’s always been the dark that showed me the truth.
The lips were chapped and the skin around them was wrinkled. It was as if the mouth could do no more speaking; it had said all it had to say. Yet it was still open. The mouth didn’t close…it wouldn’t close. One last final thing to say. One last final declaration. The mouth needed to speak. Its voice wasn’t heard, so in the silence it bared its last message on one piece of pristine, white paper that hung in the lips’ folds. The five letters spelled out one thing: ‘WORDS’.
The image was so fresh in my mind. It was all I could concentrate on. Over and over again I traced the outline of those lips, canvassed the craters of the wrinkles, searching for meaning and truth. The image wouldn’t leave me alone. I kept blinking my eyes, banging my head…anything. But all I saw was that image. The image of ‘WORDS’ put in her mouth.