There gets to a point in a week, a month or a lifetime that you just want to shut up. I mean truly, madly and aggressively say nothing to another living soul. It is as if each word uttered burns 1000 calories and feels like those last weary steps of an Olympic marathon where you enter the stadium, the crowd is going wild and your legs act like wobbly rubber bands instead of the strong, dutiful appendages you so badly rely on. The rubber wins out and you fall flat on your face, as a runner from Ethiopia passes you for the gold, the random Swede flies on by to capture the silver, wearing unbearably small shorts and some middle aged Jamaican limps over the finish line with an impossibly heartwarming back story and the Bronze, that you would have settled for had your body not screwed you over. No, I do not know what it feels like to be in the Olympics but I have imagined it more times than I would care to admit.
I am a talker by nature, a girl who once lost a $20 bet that I could not shut the fuck up for 5 minutes. I could not do it. The words flew out of my pie hole like hundreds of bats at dusk searching for a cow to suck on. A glue addict in an art supply store would have held out longer than I did. I handed over my money shameful yet exhilarated by the rush. My urge to speak and to fill any silence that comes my way is my addiction, my cross to bear, my pile of Coca Cola, my credit card debt.
With motherhood, wifedom and the endless search for a career with meaning, I have moved into a part of my life where I want nothing but silence, especially from myself. The voice in my head is louder than my real voice and sometimes resembles Liza Minnelli after three Manhattan’s, complete with a staccato slur and jazz hands. When Liza passes out or falls off her barstool the voice can turn into Jimmy Durante with a peppering of Amy Winehouse drunk dialing Courtney Love. But if the day is as long as it is hard, a terrific combination of a leaf blower, Miley Cyrus speaking, not singing and experimental jazz-fusion fill my skull until my ears bleed. This must be payback.
When I was a freshman in college, I had just begun dating a boy on the varsity rugby team, a boy whose ability to withstand monumental amounts of pain seemed, at the time, to be a good character trait. That, and his sheer pleasure at having teeth knocked out of his head on a semi-regular basis. I was a girl who loved having a boyfriend. I was in love with love, the kind of love that was most often soaked in cheap beer and false promises. But Rugby Boy* was such a cheese monger that he lured me in on our first date with a rented Betamax copy of 9 1/2 Weeks and a belt’s length of free drink tickets from the local college watering hole. This lovely place, called The Nickel, was a downtown Tucson bar filled with homeless bar flies and entitled college assholes who loved chugging cheap beer on tap and mocking the needy by chatting them up and pretending to be interested in their colorful and tragic stories.
After a few weeks of dating each other, he took me to the Rugby team awards dinner, a splendid affair that took place in a large dining hall in the armpit of the football stadium. It seemed to be a forgotten locker room with banquet tables and a stage, smelling of sweaty testicles and athlete’s foot cream. The food was a collection of mysterious gray matter in three separate piles, a vegetable, a carbohydrate and a deceased rodent of some kind, most likely a skinny chicken who was thrilled to have been put out of its misery but was hoping for something a bit higher class than a D level dinner as its last resting place.
Half way through a mixed green salad, or as I saw it, my own personal plate of freshly mowed lawn, the speeches began. I cannot recall if there were two speeches or ten. All I remember is the head coach getting up on stage and starting to rib some of the players with his bad punning and douche bag voice. He was your typical, type A control freak, alpha male, adrenaline fueled, jock itch, a guy who most likely prided himself on his inability to use an appliance or say the words “I’m sorry.” He told a few uninteresting anecdotes about a certain scrimmage formation or an away game that had turned violent when suddenly, he focused all his attention on my date.
In a matter of seconds, the coach ripped apart my arm candy as if my guy had murdered most if his family and impregnated his special needs daughter. Everyone joined in the laughter and my date, trying his best to take insults like “stupid”, “worthless, “ball dropper”, began to shrink in his seat. When the howls became deafening, I leaned over to Hunky Dumb Dumb and quietly said, in a commiserating way, “What an asshole!” What I didn’t bargain for was that the laughter would subside the moment I began to speak. And being a descendant of a megaphone and a long line of court jesters, my comment was heard by all, bouncing off the concrete walls like a handball at recess.
Everyone in the room including the busboys and the chandeliers condescendingly stared at me with my monolithic shoulder pads and crimson colored face. I looked like a sun burned Pointer Sister from the late 1980’s when they had a string of hits but terrible fashion misses. I quickly turn to the new boyfriend for some kind of reassurance but all I got was a bloated, battered rugby mug glaring at me with enough hatred to fuel a third world war. I was so mortified and cared so much what everyone thought of me that I just sat in my uncomfortable stacking chair drinking cheap white zinfandel by the cup full for the next hour and tried not to urinate on my borrowed skirt.
Eventually, we made it back to his place with only a few dry comments on my social suicide attempt and a nightcap of mediocre college sex and a bottle of Southern Comfort. The relationship surprisingly lasted through my foot in mouth dance. But, within a month he had moved on to my best friend’s roommate, a girl I had stupidly introduced him to thinking that he would love my friends. She seemed to be everything I was not, tall, blond, a heavy pot smoker and a psychotic Depeche Mode fanatic who would constantly sing “Shout” while carrying on a conversation about her new boyfriend and her need to travel the world before settling down with him.
I try and look back on my loudest and proudest moments and tell myself that I need to learn to be quiet inside as well as out. Maybe, if I can turn down my volume, if only by a few notches, than the noises around me will begin to subside. That or I had better practice keeping my mouth shut at pre-school picnics, pep rallies and prom parties. Otto will never forgive me if I accidentally insult his date’s knock off designer prom dress or inadvertently tell his football coach that he sucks dick like the captain of the cheerleading squad on homecoming weekend.
*I refer to the rugby player as Rugby Boy, My Date, Him, Arm Candy or Hunky Dumb Dumb not to be thoughtful and protect his identity but because I cannot, for the life of me, remember his name. I blame time, alcohol and apathy.