Last night, I let my roommate hear my work. I read it to her aloud. My voice quivered as she sat there silently, you see, I’m still not used to reading my work aloud. Not to a stranger.
It’s not that I don’t know her. We’ve known each other since freshman year of college when we stood back to back in line for orientation. She heard the sound of my voice, and spun to me and asked, “Are you from Australia?” I stood like a deer in headlights, dumbfounded at her misinterpretation of the accent I knew I didn’t really have. “You clearly don’t know anyone from Australia.” I said and my palms started to sweat. Palms never have been good with women. I explained to her I was from Tennessee, and we carried on our day.
In the weeks to follow my name would sweep across campus, except no one could remember what it really was. Instead, they remembered my thick Tennessee accent, and from that day forward, that’s who I was. Tennessee, Tenn, Tenney. It varies from day to day.
So, it’s not that she’s a stranger. No, this girl and I share the same last name. We sat there, side by said in the M’s section when they called us to the stage for graduation. We had the same major in college, and my sister’s middle name is the name of her first.
No. We aren’t strangers. But I am afraid that she’ll stand there today, arms crossed at a loss for words. I’m afraid she’ll see through the tears that shield my fears and say She’s strange, her, this girl, who spills words on a page. Wasting their potential. Not to mention she’ll still stand there, arms crossed … today.
She’ll stare at me and all she’ll see in this, “Strange, her.” She’ll point me out, and all those around will see. This strange her she speaks of is me.
I’m the strange her; the girl so different from the rest. I spill my heart upon a page, upon a screen or canvas. I speak aloud of ups and downs, my hearts woe and memories. And here she sits with arms uncrossed, listening silently.
Never once does she identify me as the strange her I expected. Not once does she judge me or question this page full of words. It’s nice to be able to put into words something that no one is going to judge you for.
After the final word falls from the page, she smiles and says “You should record that. It’s even better when you read it out loud.” I’m not sure if it makes sense aloud. Any of it. Sometimes my plays on words can be a bit distracting and frankly with my accent I say things different from most. My voice cracks when I’m nervous, and I’m not positive that anyone can understand me, but she was so supportive when she said it. So warm and inviting with her opinions. I couldn’t help but think that maybe I wasn’t so strange after all.