Speak if you have something to say, and I became a susurration of silences. I became the negative space between two heartbeats, the hush before the first bowed note, and the visceral clench before sheer panic.
Eminence, my professor said, you’re brilliant—why thank you Professor Leiff—but I would love to hear more from you—why no thank you Professor Leiff.
And so I did not speak for two months.
Lurking, is that what they call it? I lurked and heard compassion from a woman for everyone's life but her own. Love yourself like how you love others, I wanted to tell her. I lurked and heard eloquent thoughts so well-expressed it made me afraid to ever speak again. He spun silver out of sentiments and I spun shit out of syllables. I lurked and heard ramblers who had a mouth for every thought. Build a wall, Trump says, and I would bring him a rambling mason who builds walls from text. I lurked and heard a confession from a girl who was so sorry for airing her heart. I lurked and heard a rejection from the boy who was so sorry for breaking it. I lurked and heard haploid thoughts escaping throat cavities before ever fully coagulating. Thinking is not a prerequisite for speaking for the haploid-prone. I lurked and heard so much from others that I nearly assumed who they were. How frightening, to assume you could know a person. I lurked and heard and heard.
Then I spoke, for I had something to say.
Who wields more power? The man who speaks and steers the conversation? Or the man who listens, taking in all but giving none?