The Sound of Your Daughter’s Silence

Your words were taken from you, and then you gave them up.

Fear finds you and takes you for a long con. You won’t remember when he showed up. That is likely because he was there from the beginning. But he showed up.

You are an easy target. People born into situations like yours seem to be preselected for his arrival. The funny thing about Fear is how he becomes a part of your life. Sure, he’ll show off for you and put on a big show. He likes you to know how powerful he is. Mostly though, he just follows you around, waiting. You can feel him watching you. Sometimes he’ll tap you on the shoulder to let you know he’s close. He is unpredictable. You never know when he is going to make a grand entrance or just come out for a moment, so you don’t forget what he looks like. His artistry though, is that he is always there. Fear becomes someone who comforts you, Fear becomes your best friend.

When you and Fear develop that kind of relationship, two things happen:                      1: You learn that Fear is jealous. He doesn’t like to share his friendships                         2: You find yourself feeling protective of your relationship with him

The fact that you become protective of Fear bodes well for him because you become complicit in your own isolation. You participate in silencing yourself. You don’t even realize that he is manipulating you so brilliantly. No. Because now, Fear is your companion. You trust the Fear you know.  You become afraid of the consequences that would occur if people were to find out the Fear you live with. You become jealous, too. So you protect him.

Your friendships with people are always at a distance. But you smile wide enough and laugh loud enough that people believe your half-truths. Nobody wants to meet your Fear. Your friends are intuitive enough to know that he hangs around you. That’s why you are always invited to go with them, nobody wants to come to you. They see his shadow over your door when they drop you off after a sleepover. But what can a child do? What can their parents do? Parents are less intuitive and too busy.  They ignore the silence with as much effort as you take to cover it.

You love Fear because Fear raised you. You give him your words, your truth, your life to protect him. You do it because you think you are protecting yourself.  But as you’ve gotten a little older, something doesn’t sit right. Some of the ways that you have been manipulated by Fear dawns on you, and you become ashamed and angry with yourself. You realize your own participation, but you were taught to believe silence is the right thing, because you were taught to trust his words. You are angry and ashamed that you were so helpless, that you hid everything, that the people who were supposed to protect you preferred your silence. Perhaps, because your anger overpowers your shame, you begin to feel a little stronger. Your trust in Fear weakens. You rebel a little, you talk back a little. You tell Fear, “No.”

But the woman who houses Fear doesn’t like the sound of your voice.  So she and Fear come up with a plan because the sound of your silence is something they still need to control.  They uproot you from the world you have known from the day you were born.  You become exiled, 1800 miles away, just you, your mother and Fear. Not even your sister follows. Visiting home, friends, family, is not allowed. Communicating with them is not allowed. You hope, amidst your anger, confusion, terror, that someone will stop ignoring you and rescue you. The escapism helps with the pain, but your rescue party has no idea where you live. There is no car pulling up your driveway to save you. There is no knock on the door. The doorbell never rings. The silence is deafening.

You and Fear become best friends again because, once again, you are left without a choice. This time you make sure nobody ever sees your door. Fear’s jealousy took you away from everything you knew, so you resolved not to know anyone. Fear takes kindly to this, and buys you a car when you turn 16. This is supposed to help you believe that freedom is a possibility. But Fear won’t let you get your driver’s license, even though you are so alone that there is no where to go. So your car becomes a cruel joke.

Around this time, your isolation no longer placates you, and your anger starts to take over. This is because you meet someone. He has a Fear of his own, too.  Your Fear meets his Fear and the silence that you two shared broke. You don’t judge each other, or turn your backs on one another to satisfy your Fears. No, your hand holds his, and you both squeeze tightly. You give each other strength to fight Fear because this experience makes you realize just how desperate Fear is.  Who knew it is possible for two children to rescue each other?

It gets worse before it gets better. In Fear’s desperation to win you back, you are finally allowed to get your driver’s license. Fear tries hard to satisfy you with material things. Your bedroom would have been envied by most people your age. But this is all an act. Fear is unpredictable and takes away everything you have been given if Fear becomes unsatisfied by your obedience, or if you begin to feel anything resembling confidence.

Poor,  jealous Fear. Fear starts losing control. That someone, with a Fear of his own, the one who held your hand through this, he is still there. He is helping you make plans, he helps your fantasies of escape become possibilities. Fear is always strategic, and realizes the best way to manipulate your silence is to allow you to leave. Greedy Fear, he doesn’t want to spend money on you leaving because he doesn’t really want to let you go. So he calls up the family he banished you from years ago, and has you solicit money from them, in an attempt to humiliate you, and paint you as greedy and selfish. Poor Fear.

That family that you were snatched away from, the silence from the years apart, revealed to them the truth of your life. You will learn of their own guilt and shame for doing nothing while you still lived within reach. You learn that they tried to make it up to you by sending you checks in the mail that you never received because Fear controlled everything. They are relieved to hear from you, and they want to pay for you to go to college to relieve them of their guilt. You are grateful but humiliated, and angry, and ashamed. You want to yell at them and say that money will never make up for what you went through, and what they ignored. But you bite your tongue and remain silent. It seems easier for everyone.

Fear does not want you to succeed. Fear does not want you to leave. Fear wants to control you. But you leave eventually, and by that point Fear resigns himself, for the most part. When you met that someone, the one who held your hand and squeezed tightly, you learned you were not alone. You learned love isn’t governed by Fear. Words will never be able to describe the gratitude you have toward that someone. He knows this, so you remain silent and squeeze his hand instead.

Fear is a beast that housed itself inside your mother. When it left her an Anger took over. You will forgive her. You won’t want to learn of her remorse, which is good, because you will find out that she has none. All that you know is that an Anger like hers is dangerous, violent and vengeful. People will encourage you to reunite. They tell you that you will feel guilty, you will regret the silence, that a mother deserves a relationship with her daughter. You will smile and nod, but you will remain silent.

Those encouraging, well-meaning people will see your nod and ignore your silence. They will believe that they have helped you see the importance of that relationship. They believe you will reunite. They will believe that is best because their own experience has shown them it is so. What they will not know is how important that relationship is to you. You know that you cannot speak with her, you cannot see her. You will know this because you will have tried. You are her daughter, she is your mother. You know exactly how important that relationship is. But your relationship can only exist in silence. It is the only form of loyalty you can give.

The Sound of Silence: Weekly Writing Challenge