Hard To Speak By Rayna Caskey
i have lost millions and millions
of words to fear.
tell me that is not violence.
the deaths (Nayirah Waheed, salt.)
Lately it’s been hard for me to speak. To physically get words out. To have a thought, opinion, idea travel from my brain to my mouth to the outside.
A few weeks ago I was with my girlfriend and we were laughing about something probably dumb and probably sweet. I tried to say “why don’t you go get in the shower” or “why don’t you go jump in the shower” but couldn’t get it out right. It was like my mind kind of knew what it wanted to say - some version of those two phrases (why don’t you go get in the shower or why don’t you go jump in the shower) but my brain never picked one and my mouth thought it could finish the thought for my brain. But it couldn’t. What came out was: “why don’t you go do do...”. At first I laughed. Doodoo.
Then I started crying. Doodoo. “Why is it so hard for me to say words?” I thought, “is something wrong with my brain?” And I kept crying. I could feel the cry in my sternum - a place, a cavern where I feel emotion. The place I rediscovered this summer when I was lying on the floor on a mat in a big old hall in a theater building where a luminous delicate woman named Suzanne told us a story about how we can be our favorite person. 2
I can be my favorite person.
In the space between the long flat bone of my sternum and my spine, the space where it all lives, I felt the sweet sadness of loss and coming home.
I can choose myself.
I realized how far away I had been holding myself from me. How hard I was always being on me. I felt how badly my body bore that pain.
In the middle of this surprise cry on a Thursday night, my girlfriend said “You look so sad.”
I like silence. I like listening to other people. I like asking questions and letting the other person give some part of themselves to fill the space. Sometimes I don’t like talking.
Did I choose that?
Did a person or people bury that ‘fact’ in me?
Does it matter?
If you have ice in a glass of water the ice eventually melts. It gives itself away to the water. The ice is already water just a different form. The water is already ice just a different form. There’s something I like about that.
I like silence. I like listening. But what about when I try to speak and can’t? What if the ice is melting but it isn’t in water?
Lately my silence isn’t silence. It’s muffled. It’s a cotton hum. It’s all of a sudden a little too hot but how did it get this hot without me noticing. It’s been getting hotter for a long time in this room.
The ice melted but there’s less water in the cup.
I’m out of practice speaking when it’s hot like this.
Rayna Caskey is a queer Ojibwe improviser and performer in Chicago. She is working to get her words back. She performs weekly with her best buds on Wet Bus and Roundabout at iO Chicago and Majority Rules at CiC. Much love to the School at Steppenwolf 2016 for helping her re-learn how to feel and feel freely, even if she never acts again. Her extended family once owned a funeral home in rural Michigan. She’s raynacasket on instagram and raynacaskey on twitter.