The Notched Wing

Helen Tara Hughes – Poetry, Fiction, Film, Phantasms

Struck Dumb

The girl is turning more and more to silence.

She has had to make Herculean efforts to phone friends and family. She conducts relentless telephone experiments on one friend, trying the TALKing that they all say is so important, so integral to friendship or intimacy. And conversations get easier with this one friend, things go better, yes they do, she sees it is true what they say.

Still, after the phonecalls, she disbelieves.

Late, late at night she gets a restless feeling. It is like she feels when she eats just cake for supper, and goes to bed, except the empty and swift-moving feeling isn\’t in her belly. It is like swift winds in her throat, like all those words have turned to air, she wakes to find herself hungry in her wishes, empty of real nourishing.

Whenever she hangs up the phone, she feels like a fraud. She is a masterful copy, masquerading as Matisse, in a household\’s blank front entry. She is this bland and common thing, accepted but unseen, waiting endless days in a place of swift passage and goodbye\’s and leavings.

Phone calls make her feel futile in this way. Flat, fake, unseen.

\”I think I give up now\” she thinks, \”yes. I give up.\” Surrender. White flags waving behind her eyes, like the fine ladies hankies from castle towers.

Will people notice? Already she has been slipping away from conversations.

Her girlfriends will notice, the ones who know something of her melancholy, the ones who catch her at it and won\’t let her bury it in excuses or hide it under humourous ramblings. They will take some fooling, they will, some planned conversational gambits followed by swift excuses and endings.

\”My mom is on the other line\”
\”The kettle is boiling\”
\”I have to wash my hair\”

\”Words are slippery unless I write them\” she says to her attic ceiling.

Lying stilly on her mattress, in the dark and sleepless evenings, she wonders if true happiness could be linked to the curtain of silence. She considers abandoning speaking, leaving herself only Silent Moments. Abandoning the slippery slope of Words, for the sturdy ground of secret Feeling.

Her words are written for her, and that seems to be enough. Writers\’ words are safer, simpler, and often so much more witty.

She has so many misunderstandings with the man she loves, fruitlessly and innocently, that her own words now seem treacherous. Little traitor beasts that leap out of her mouth like gophers onto the road. Standing up, myopic, striving to see the oncoming traffic of fucked up and doomed abortive meanings.

Perhaps the talking only keeps her chained to this false bravado, when all she wants to do is smile sadly, or weep softly when her words fail to reach another person, deeply. Her loving is meaningless to others, and talking makes it dirty in her own mouth.

Perhaps the talking only belies the love feeling, and she cannot bear that perfect thing to be so sullied, so misunderstood, mistrusted, cheapened. If the people don\’t understand, is it better to simply feel?

Do they really need to know? Do they really need to see?
Is it safe to let them in, if there is the chance they will interpret what they see so wrongly?
safe for me?

Perhaps if she doesn\’t speak, all that will be left is the perfect feeling. Hers. Untaintable, unmistakable, unable to be mistook or disregarded, because it is always safe inside her. Unassailable.

It will be a secret, one that armours her against the mediocrity of being the common copied painting in the front entryway of intimacy.

Author: smallboy

Helen Tara Hughes is a writer, producer and actor. An award-winning theatre performer, she cut her teeth in classical and new work at major theatres across Canada, including the Stratford Festival. Her first taste of documentary work – a POV radio documentary for CBC’s ‘Outfront’ – gave her the documentary bug, and in 2009 she transitioned into Producing with the feature documentary, Goodness in Rwanda. As a writer, she has been published by Backofthebook.ca, Eros Digest, and TWISI, and has a book of short stories that will be published in the fall of 2012. As a filmmaker, she creates short films based on poetic writing. She moonlights as an Asst Producer and Coordinator for documentary, factual, and independent films, and is developing a slate of her own media projects for 2013.

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