From Lover, Mother, Seeker, Sage.
Lying is done with words and also with silence. — Adrian Rich
Silence was my lover’s lover. A lifetime of meticulously chosen words, and a short period of incoherent raging, had left me mute. There was no need to wonder what happens after one screams so violently that the voice fails. Silence, of course.
Whose hand is over my mouth, I wondered, powerless to move my jaw? Being incapable of complaining also meant no oral sex. He would suffer for what he had done.
By not speaking, I could bear the dishonesty. By feigning agreement, I would keep the peace. By locking her jaw, I could stop being force fed his needy torment.
Silence cooked for him, silence slept with him and silence hung on his arm, right alongside the Rolex, neither making even a tick.
Maybe I had used up my quota of words. A bit soon, I thought, but not impossible. Or maybe, by using words like weapons, which I had done with the first one, the one who could not listen, I had broken some covenant and been banned to the land of the speechless.
Be seen and not heard, resurrected from childhood. Silent AND deadly.
How much venom could be produced with a wordless gaze, a tight-lipped grimace, a rigid backed response? A nearly fatal dose, I came to understand, without the need to bare the fangs locked behind the prison of her mouth.
Everyone could see the cause of this strange symptom. But I dared not even think the words: He did this.
Ruination, damnation, desecration, fueled by determination.
What would I have to admit, about my own part in the tragic farce, to say, “He did this, and I let him?”
Silence was the price for security, the counterfeit for connection, as valuable as any of the constant lies we told. Whether spoken or not, dishonesty was our secret code.
I would win this one. If shutting up and shutting off were the rules of engagement, I would be the silent victor.
“I can’t hear you,” he would say. No shit, I thought, and that was that. I won the round, again.
But he changed the rules, so quickly I could not veer from the strategy. I rounded the bend to find that he had gone.
Unable to bear the hypocrisy, or the silence of lies, he stopped playing mid-game, took his game-piece and left. The only pleas were silent as I realized it was my own hand over my mouth.
When lies are all you tell, what is the value of your word? When the truth is too hard to bear what is the value of your life?
Where does the line between sanctity and profanity lie? Is your silence that of the disempowered child or the prayerful monk?
Does it burn in the consumption of rage or stand at the doorway to ecstasy? Who holds the barometer, the perfectly precise gauge of ‘rightness’ by which to assess the opening and closing of one’s mouth… the opening and closing of one’s heart?
Fill the hole with whatever is around to keep it busy, or seal it so tightly for no trespassing. Breathe, moan, whisper, cry, scream, laugh. But speak not or forever hold your peace.
This essay is part of the upcoming compilation — Lover, Mother, Seeker, Sage by Pascale Kavanagh.
I’ve drawn my inspiration from the many flavors of my life experience. Once a sad, shy girl, I’ve also been an MIT-educated engineer, biotech executive, professional dancer, yoga teacher and business owner, school founder, spiritual counselor, and entrepreneur.
These days, my favorite titles are author, mother, and hot stuff.
And I own a magic wand that I’m certain will work one day.