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Empathy

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It’s a cool fall night. I inhale the frigid, bitter air of autumn, combined with the odor of
fermenting leaves. It is sharp, like a pointy knife, one that you would never allow small children
to use, more of a double-edged dagger than a dinner utensil, and shiver-inducing, the freezing
winds playing havoc with your clothes and your hair, making you wish that you were sitting by a
cozy fire, or at least not outside. I stand, with my costume slightly askew for a moment and
watch my feet walking slowly up to the door, with my sister.
I taste my mouth becoming desert-like and thirsty, as I try to focus on the positive things.
In my head I think, ‘It’s a fun night, anyway. What could be bad about free candy? It’s free, after
all’. We’re almost to the door. With my gloved hand, I touch the doorbell and softly push it in.
Soon after that, a woman appears. We in unison respond, “Trick or treat!” and hold out our
candy bags, waiting for the treats.
She gives us candy, and as we respond with “Thank you”, she asks a question. She
inquires, “Why is your voice so weird?” to Anni, my sister, and then we walk away. I keep
hearing Anni’s gravelly, medical-phenomenon-of-a-voice trying to converse with someone who
doesn’t understand. I hear her voice’s low hum trying to be strong, to not get hurt. But once
damage is done, it can’t be undone. I walk beside her, wishing.
We walk away in silence, but after a while, I see her lagging behind, and after a few people asking her rudely about her voice, she gives in to her emotions, and I slowly realize that she is crying. After she starts crying, I realize how fragile she is, and how I, in this situation, am completely powerless.
Once I was at a museum and I saw a cute little girl from a school group. She was young, about kindergarten age. I said hi to her, and then she asked me a question. It was not how old I was, or where I go to school, but a different question altogether, and one I didn’t immediately know the answer to.
What she asked was, “Is your voice okay?”
For a few long milliseconds, I was thinking frantically, questions like ‘Why me?’ and
‘Do other people notice?’ et cetera.
I, trying feebly to inject happiness/peppiness into my voice (but not succeeding),
answered, “Um, yeah, my voice is fine”.
Now, my balled-up, tightly-clenched fingers are stiffly held at my sides as anger explodes
inside of me now. An event that was supposed to be good, gone bad. A shiny, perfect apple which is brown and mushy inside, which almost makes you wish you hadn’t taken it in the first place. It’s like a hippopotamus trying to fit inside a wading pool- you can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away. It won't. The aftermath still lies dormant until you acknowledge it, like a sleeping dog.
I was full of embarrassment, anger, remorse, and shame.
Being Anni’s sister has changed the way I view life. The way others treat her has helped me understand sorrow, anger, and cruelty. When the woman made a rude comment, I was completely consumed by that too familiar feeling of why-can’t-people-just-try-to-understand, as
sadness, injustice, and perhaps even hatred of their ignorance, of their making a girl who has been through so much feel dejected, a girl who they don’t even know and who they don’t try to appreciate raced through my head. Why is it fair for them to judge her? She has helped me find happiness in little things, and in general. Also I can talk to her about anything. She is one of the best true friends I could ever have.
After the incident at the museum, I was embarrassed—the day overall was fun, but I still had that unpleasant memory lingering in my mind. Later, when we were getting ready for bed, I told Anni what had happened. She said nothing- nothing at all, except for two words. They
weren’t ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘You rock’, but some different ones.
She said, “I understand”.
And at that moment, that was all I needed.





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EPluribusUnum This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 30, 2012 at 5:20 pm
Oh that's sad. :( I'm sorry people are so rude. I'm sure most o them don't mean anything by it, but that doesn't excuse the way they behave. Wonderfully written article. I loved the imagery, especially in the begingin. The only thing I uggest you change isthe phrase "pointy knife" in the very beginig. Since pointy is a given with knivs, it's pretty redundant. Other that that, great article and I'm sorry about how people treat your sister.
 
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