We Hear You
April 29th, 2014
A Story Each Day
Please be aware that this story contains references to intense situations.
They would call me a terrorist, I was sure of it. They would call me a radical; they would call me insane. They would talk to my friends: They’d probably find Steven and ask him first, but they wouldn’t stop there. They’d talk to Mitch and Winston, and they’d probably ask Frances what she thought of me, too. Most of them would be able to tell the truth and say that there was no sign of any mental breakdown before today. Except maybe Frances.
I was scared. I doubted every single decision that I made every day for the six weeks leading up to today. I doubted myself when I bought the gasoline. I doubted myself when I bought the can. I doubted myself a week ago, when I went to the square and looked around, wondering what the hell I was thinking, and where I’d be a week from then.
But I just didn’t see any other way.
When I took courses at theater, I remember feeling the same way that I felt today. The hardest scene that I acted in required me to give everything that I had. I had to break an auditorium full of delicate silence by screaming at the top of my lungs. It took me weeks to learn how to do it. Not because I couldn’t scream, but because I couldn’t let go. It was like my voice didn’t feel like it had permission to be heard, or to be the only voice in the room. Delicate silence is much harder to break than it seems.
But that’s what had to happen — at a national level. The nation sat in a quiet auditorium of our continent, and was waiting for someone to break the oppressive silence that held all of us in delicate shackles. I saw it in their eyes: The mother of two in the grocery store. The street vendor with that long white beard. The policeman whom I could tell wanted to smile, but for God’s sake could not. The soldier who was younger than any soldier should be. The teacher who just wanted children of her own. They all were waiting in dark silence for someone to shout out a violent scream and shatter the invisible glass that held them all down.
I was scared. Because that someone was going to be me.
I bought the can of gasoline. I took the metro to the square. I walked to the cobblestone curb. I poured the can on myself and smelt the raw, dry stench of gasoline running down my body.
I took a deep breath.
And lit myself.
Delicate silence is much harder to break than it seems.
The first nurse to clean my wounds stared down at me in a frenetic shock. I could feel my heart running out. I looked up at her, wishing that I could move my lips and speak. My throat scraped my vocal chords and an uncontrolled yell moaned from my mouth.
She clasped my charred fingers in her hand and tried to quiet me.
“Shh,” She whispered, like an actor who’d just learned to take the stage.
“We hear you.”