#5SF : Words

She stomped her feet, then stared at me, her eyes cutting right through me, as she screamed at me, “You never do anything. All you do is talk. Talk, talk, talk. You never act on anything you say. It’s as if all you are is words.”


Here’s my weekly attempt at Lillie McFerrin‘s flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Words.

Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

I Don’t Know At All If I Can

The card came in the mail yesterday.
A sympathy card.
From her.
One of my favorite cousins.
Expressing her sympathy
For me, and my family,
With the passing of my Mother.

It was a beautiful gesture.
Totally unexpected.
There was a picture inside.
Of her and her spouse.
Never met him.
But he looked OK
In the picture.

I found myself looking
Up at God.
“She better be happy with him.
He better be taking care of her.
He better not be
Like that first guy was.
You got that, Lord.
She deserves to be happy.”

And then I saw
The handwritten words
Addressed just to me.

“It has been a long time.
If you can give your cousin a call.”
And then she wrote her number down.

And I don’t have a clue at all
What to do.
Not one clue.

I hear so many voices
They could fill the Roman Coliseum,
Screaming at me,
“Pick up the phone,
You ding-bat!
Give her a call!”

And I want to.
Oh, God,
Do I want to.

But…

How?
What do I say?
How do I say it?
Whatever it is?

I called a friend in February
Of 2011.
Wound up calling her a lot.
She was wounded.
And lonely.
And so very ill.

I’d call her up,
And I’d listen to her voice.
I’d listen for as long
As she wished to talk.
And I’d almost never say a word
Myself.

People just don’t realize
How hard it is
For me to talk.
They just don’t know at all.

Hell,
I’ve known my lady 35 years.
And there are still times
I just can’t say a thing.
Times no words come out.
When I talk with her.

It’s another way I’m wired
A little differently.

I remember meeting Deb.
Face to face on Mother’s Day
In 2001.

The only time I’ve seen her
In real life.
I’ve seen her picture many times.
But we’ve only met
That one time.

You know what she said to me
When she got home
From the trip her and Scott were on?

“I was sitting right there,
At the table.
Just across from you.
And you didn’t say a word.
You didn’t say anything.
Anything at all.”

She told me how disappointed
She had been.
That I hadn’t spoken with her.
Hadn’t talked.
And she was right there.
Right there.
She could have held my hand.
We could have shared stories.
We could have talked.
Like people talk.
Like friends.

And I sat there.
Damn near silent.

I would have loved to talk with her.
Tell her how beautiful she was.
Tell her how the pictures I’d seen
Were pale imitations of her.

Tell her stories of the kids.
Listen to stories of her kids.

And I couldn’t.
I couldn’t find the words.
I couldn’t find a way.
I couldn’t.

I just sat there.
And listened.

And now,
My cousin has asked me
To give her a call.

And oh, how much I want to.
You will never know.
You will never understand.

And I don’t know at all
If I can.

I don’t know at all
If I can.

The Prompt Was A Song

I wanted to try my hand
At a new flash fiction challenge.
So last night,
I visited the site
Of the challenge.
I reviewed the rules,
To make sure I knew
What I was doing.
And then I read the prompt.

The prompt was a song.
One I’d never heard before.
The kind of music
I don’t listen to.
But, change is good.
Different is good too.
So I listened to the song.
To see what I could come up with
In 500 words or less,
When using the song
As a source of inspiration.

And over and over again
That song said just one thing.
“C’mon. Talk.”

That’s when I became
Overwhelmed.
Overloaded.

Memories flooded me.
Of countless times
I couldn’t talk.
I couldn’t say a word.
Times my voice,
My body,
My emotions,
All ran wild.
And I couldn’t talk at all.

Times when I was a church.
In high school.
35 years ago.
“Talk to me!”
She begged.
She pleaded.
And I couldn’t say a word.

I wanted to!
Oh, God, how I wanted to!
No one will ever know
How much I wished
I could have found a way
To talk.

But that part of me
Just didn’t work.
No matter what I did.
No matter how I tried.

The times the church group
Had an event,
Where everyone attended.
And I wound up
Left out
Yet again.

Because I couldn’t talk.
I couldn’t ask
To be let in.
I couldn’t say,
“Don’t leave me as
The odd one out
Again.”

The times my friends
All said to me,
“You can’t be that way.
It’s wrong.
You have to change.”

And I wanted to ask why.
What was I doing wrong.
How could they be
The way they were.
I didn’t understand.

But no words ever came.
No words ever came.

My days in college
Were the same.
There were times
I couldn’t talk.

I remember the computer lab
On one Friday morning
Around 0500 hours.
When the pretty girl and I
Sat in the lab.
Waiting for the computers
To come back on-line
From maintenance,
As we ate junk food
From 7-11.

I remember how
I never really said a word.
Hell,
It never even occurred to me
To ask her out
To a movie.

I let her talk,
When she wanted to.
But like always
I couldn’t find a thing
To say.

Not one damn thing.

The list of memories
Goes on and on and on.
The stories are so plentiful
They all blur together.

Like one from July,
Just 2 years ago.
When a friend of mine
Saw me walking in the hall
At work.

She took me by the hand
And said so many times,
“Talk to me, Mark.
Talk to me, please!”

It was the first time
I found any words at all.
And she will never know
How hard it was to talk.
How much it hurt my
Physically.
To say just two words.
“Don’t leave.”

I’ve learned,
After all these years,
What was going on.
That my inability to talk
Was just another symptom
Of my ASD.
That sometimes things just happen
That overwhelm me.

I can’t figure those things out.
And I feel completely lost.
Not knowing what to do.
Not knowing what to say.
With a million thoughts
Racing through my mind
All at the same time.

Everything locks up.
And I just can’t talk.

If you ever talk with me.
And you find a time
When I can’t say a word.
Please know
It’s not that I don’t want
To talk with you.

It’s that I’m overwhelmed.
That I need time to clear my head.
I need time to think.
And that I don’t understand at all
What’s happening
Right then.

It’s that I just don’t understand
At all.

So That I Don’t Fall Silent Once Again

I remember when she said
I didn’t talk.
She was there.
Right across the table.
Easily within the reach
Of my arms.
My hands.

I could have reached across
And touched her hand.
Her cheek.
I could have.
But I didn’t.

And then,
She was gone.
And I may never
Have that chance again.

A moment lost.

She wrote me
The next week.
And she said she couldn’t understand
Why I spoke so very little
When our families met
On that Mother’s Day.
That it frustrated her.
She’d come to speak with me.
And meet me.
And I’d sat across the table.
Out of her reach.

And I’d been damn near silent.

I have never found the words.
Never found a way.
To explain.
About that broken part
Of me.
That part that’s been broken
Almost all my days.
And remains broken
Even now.

The part of me
That just can’t speak.
That looks away.
And never seems to have
Anything to say.

It’s something that I’ve learned.
Through fear.
And through pain.
And through so many mistakes
That I lost count of them
More than 30 years ago.

I’ve learned
I always seem to say
The wrong thing.
In some way.
Even though I try
So very hard
To get it right.

Time and time again
I get corrected.
Even by people
Less than half my age.

I can explain to you
How computers work.
I can step you through
Fixing one
When something’s wrong.
I can show you how
To hunt down an error
In a program
I didn’t even write.

In what I do
In this life
I’m damn good.
I’m skilled.
And everyone that’s ever worked with me
Knows that.

But get me outside
Of something I can understand.
Something logical.
Something rational.
That I can analyze.
And understand.

And I’m just completely lost.

I have spent my life
Collecting up rules.
Of things to say.
And things to hide away.
Rules that tell me
When something I wish to say
Will disturb someone.
In some way.
Will hurt a friend.
Will bring anger
To the surface.
Or violate some sacred trust
That I don’t know about.

I try.
Oh, God.
I try.

I’ve lost count
Of the rules I’ve written.
Rules meant to help me
Get by.
In this world I never made.

And still.
Even now.
I make mistakes.
Every single day.
And say something.
Or do something.
Or write something.
That disturbs someone around me.
In some way.

And I get told
By so many people,
Time and time again.
That I can’t say things like that.
That I’ve done something wrong.
That no one knows
How I could have written
What I wrote.

Always
I have wondered
What it was
That I’ve done wrong.
Because I review
Every word I say.
Every word I write.
Checking each and ever word
Against the rules
That I’ve learned
Through the endless pain
Of mistake
After mistake
After mistake.

And the only answer
That I ever get
Has always been the same.

“You know you can’t do that.”

No.
I don’t.

This is why
I’ve gone silent.
Ever now and then.
Sometimes
For more than a decade.

Because I know this truth.
I’ve learned it
The hard way.
In this world
That I never made.

If I say nothing at all.
If I never say a thing.
I can’t say anything
Wrong.

That’s why one day
I chose “Silenced”
For my name.

And even now,
I fight that fear of pain.
That I’ve felt all my life.
So that I don’t fall silent
Once again.