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叶安灵 // 16, 2022 // she-her-hers
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Message to Readers

this is for avoiding the big bang; i originally took this post down because writing fiction is awkward and i hate coming up with names and the like, but if other people enjoyed it i can't let my own insecurities get in the way of that!

prompt: write a story about change

July 7, 2020

FREE WRITING

3
As she reached her usual seat on the school bus, she set her backpack down in the adjacent spot, so as to avoid any human interaction. Eva was five-years-old, fun-sized, and selectively mute. It had started on her first day of kindergarten when the teacher had started calling out names from the attendance list, and a fleeting thought passed through Eva’s mind right as Mrs. Standstill was transitioning from C names to D names. She didn’t have to say anything when she was called. She was expected to, but it wasn’t as if she had no choice. And so, after Elliot and Emily had made their presences known, Mrs. Standstill announced Eva’s name, and she said nothing.
    Quiet.
    “Eva? Is Eva here today?”
    No response. Eva’s lips were pressed together so tight that they began to sting. Her classmates pointed at her, indicating to Mrs. Standstill that she was indeed there despite her silence. The teacher approached her, cautiously as if she were somehow dangerous.
    “Eva, honey, you have to use your words to tell me that you’re here. Otherwise, I would have marked you absent.”
    But you can see that I’m right here, Eva wanted to say. Instead, she stared back at Mrs. Standstill, eyes wide and fearless.
    “Well, if this kind of behavior continues I’m going to have to call your parents. Am I understood?”
    Eva stared back at her, taking the words not as a warning but as a dare.
    And so it had continued that way, with Eva speaking only to her parents and becoming radio static the moment she stepped outside of her house. Eva’s parents, to their credit, didn’t mind that their daughter wasn’t speaking in school, because they had no idea this was the case. They spoke no English, and upon reaching their answering machine, which spoke in rapid Spanish, Mrs. Standstill had neglected to continue calling. Instead, she marked Eva absent every single day, had her work alone during group activities, and generally acted as if her most difficult student had disappeared without a trace. Although she mostly kept to herself, away from questions and discomfort, Eva’s classmates advocated for her each day, announcing to their teacher, “Eva’s here! Don’t mark her absent, don’t you see her?” 
    She sees me, Eva silently told them, it’s just too much of a bother to acknowledge me. Eva understood that by not speaking, she was only adding fuel to a fire. Her brown skin and curly hair set her apart from her blond, pasty classmates (for what it was worth, they all made efforts to include her in recess activities). Her act of defiance, of not speaking, made her enough of an issue that Mrs. Standstill thought it easier to ignore her and move forward with her lessons, because what was the point? Eva’s silence didn’t directly affect Mrs. Standstill, and she had decided to put herself into trouble; Mrs. Standstill didn’t need to solve the problem for her. Silence, after all, wasn’t violence.
    Eventually, Eva’s parents found out. It was October, and they, like all other parents, had been invited to a conference with Mrs. Standstill about their child’s progress. The air had gotten chilly and the leaves had morphed from summer green to shades of red, orange, and yellow. Eva’s parents had insisted she come along to their conference, to act as a translator between them and her teacher. They were unknowingly setting themselves up for a difficult situation. When the three of them entered Mrs. Standstill’s classroom, with its clinically white walls covered in arts and craft projects, it seemed as if all of the autumn air had been sucked out of the room. Mrs. Standstill’s eyes narrowed for just a moment, before the irritation on her face was replaced with a plastered smile and high pitched greeting.
    “You know, you didn’t have to bring Eva to the meeting, but very well. I’ve been looking forward to talking to you all year!” she exclaimed through slightly gritted teeth.
    “Mija, ¿qué dijo su maestra?” asked Eva’s father. She whispered back a translation.
    Mrs. Standstill, caught off guard but beginning to understand the reason why Eva had been brought along, said in an alarming loud and slow voice, “It seems that Eva is our translator for the night. Muy bien,” she laughed awkwardly. “I’ll finally get to hear her speak.”
    Eva, now stuck in a pickle, spent the rest of the evening reluctantly translating her father’s questions, her mother’s concerns, and Mrs. Standstill’s answers. It seemed ironic when Mrs. Standstill brought up Eva attending speech therapy, given that Eva had been speaking in perfect English and Spanish for the past hour.
    When the meeting was finally over and Mrs. Standstill had bid them goodbye with a brisk hustling out of the door, Eva’s father looked at her in bewilderment,
    “Mija, why didn’t you tell us that your teacher was such a mean lady?” He asked. “I can just tell by the way she was looking at us that she does not like our skin. And you are such a smart girl! Why is she suggesting you attend this therapy?”
    Guiltily, Eva knew her secret was out. “Papá,” she responded gently, “I don’t speak in class. I didn’t at first because I was nervous, but since then it’s like she doesn’t see me. I’m a ghost.”
    Staring at her, Papá crouched down so that he was eye-level with Eva. To her surprise, his eyes were filled with amusement rather than anger or disappointment. “Eva,” he began, “you made a mistake. I understand you were scared, you are not like the other children in your class. But your words are powerful. If you use your voice, they will listen to you, you will be impossible to ignore.”
    Now, as the bus pulled up to the front of the school, Eva had resolved to take action. When she entered her classroom, hands gripping the straps on her backpack, her classmates dutifully pointed at her as they had every day, announcing, “Eva’s here! Look, she’s here!” As usual, Mrs. Standstill carried on with organizing her desk, selectively deaf to their words. Eva took a deep breath.
    “I’m here,” she said.
    “You can’t ignore me.”
    Mrs. Standstill looked up.

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2 Comments
  • Hazen

    I don't want to be that person who liked every one of your pieces... BUT I have to at least comment on this one, it's magical.


    5 months ago
  • avoiding the big bang

    i'm so glad you reposted this! i'm gonna screenshot this one to read later in case you decide to take it down again lmao


    5 months ago