Saturday 31 May 2014


By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

He sat next to me. His pencil twirled between his fingers or rolled on his desk. Sometimes his hands would hold it up to his face so that the eyes hiding under his furrowed brows would absently watch it, the mind behind them working variables and numbers into a list of solutions that finally smeared off the lead.

This I was all too aware of, painfully so. It’s always painful when the knowledge that your voice cannot fire a constant stream of colour haunts the brain. My own pencil nearly never left the paper, eyes mostly darting between my laptop screen, my graph book – and of course him.

If only silence hadn’t bound me.

My fist clenched.

Is that all you’re made of? I wondered. Are you this bland, uninteresting person whom despite having been given the gift of speech cannot use it to make friends with a boy that you so desperately want to impress?

Like a gong, the bell rang, signalling my last chance, and a thought sparked to life, its match inches from igniting my tongue.

“Hey, Levan, are you coming to English today?”

“No, I don’t think so…”

The words fizzled out with the match. Beaten to the punch, I stared at the receding duo, envying the girl whose golden voice could blaze for hours where mine could not. Knee-deep water fixed my legs in place, rising until I stared through a sheet of shifting glass that distorted the view of the flames.

How unnatural, the idea of talking through this thick liquid, yet how can I reach civilisation otherwise? I wondered. My muscles loosened in waking defeat. No one can hold their breath long enough to be here. Few even dare venturing in unless my mouth moves to ease their discomfort. How tiring the idea of swimming to the surface to spit quick fire conversation starters that spittle out as I struggle to stay afloat.

My shoulders shook.

How unnatural…

My muscles tensed to keep them still.

Why does it come so unnaturally to me?

My head screamed as I bit down on my trembling lips.

I don’t want to be the fish in her bowl, ignored by passer-by. I don’t want to mouth words that no one seems to hear, so why – why this silence?

A torrent of tears swirled about my head, hands raised in beating fists to my temples, a tantrum forming a whirlpool around my body.


Bubbles gurgled out from my open mouth. Reaching the surface, they popped all at once so that someone turned around at the sound.

“Are you okay?”

I nodded, lips firmly sealed on the next onslaught of bubbles, and darted back into my fishbowl castle. Naturally, the passer-by lost interest.

What power is there in silence?

The thought shook the bowl, a fissure cracking where it would one day erupt. The passers-by continued to ignore my presence, untroubled by the lone fish-girl in her sphere of impenetrable water. Reaching out, all my hand could do was touch the glass.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, this is really good. I loved the personification.


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