The teacher calls my name. Shakily, I stand up and wave my hand to my new grade 12 classmates. The teacher introduces herself, I don’t catch her name but she follows up by saying: “Class, this is our new student. His name is Wolf”. As always, a couple students snicker and begin to wonder: who calls their son “Wolf”? “In fact, it’s short for Wolfgang,” I want to tell them, but instead I sit back down in my seat, found at the back of the class and listen quietly.
Has it already been a month at this new school? I don’t even know our team’s name yet but I guess I won’t be here for long anyways. My parents are always moving around looking for work so I never spend more than a year in the same city. I don’t even bother making friends anymore because it has become so useless. Why create bonds that will eventually be broken?
Good news: My English teacher hasn’t called on me in class yet! Despite my happiness at this lack of interest in me by my teacher, I don’t dislike English. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; in my free time, I enjoy reading and analyzing the English language because there are so many beautiful and euphoric terms in it. I like to think that I am a good writer, although my public speaking skills are definitely sub-par. I have an oral presentation coming up at the end of the term. Math, as usual, has been an easy ride since it’s pretty much all I do at home. I love math and all the sciences because, only here are others forced to be like me; it’s quiet and peaceful. Everything is factual and if you want to solve something, you do it on your own. There’s no debating it or analyzing it, you just put in the solutions, follow the mathematical rules and solve it.
That’s her name.
She told me her name was Rose Paris and that she wanted to talk soon, maybe hang out.
She has been mocked for having a funny name like me but I love the sound it makes every time I hear it come out of someone’s mouth. She talks to me but I don’t answer her. Usually people just walk away after realizing I won’t answer them and call me an introvert (or something worse). I don’t see why she keeps trying to be my friend, even though we have most of our classes together, there’s no point in talking. I’ll be leaving Montreal shortly and everyone will have soon forgotten about my stay. I also refrained from doing my English oral presentation on Hendrick Avercamp. Rose’s oral was about Martin Luther King Jr.
On the other hand, I want her to keep talking to me. She doesn’t have the light blue eyes every supermodel and movie actress has but I don’t care. She has nice, relaxing brown eyes that feel like they’re full of warmth and comfort. But her smile, oh her smile makes my heart skip a beat and dance a tune. Her smile when she talks, when she laughs (not at my jokes obviously, I don’t tell any) drives me crazy. Her teeth glisten white like pearls found in the ocean, preserved by a clam that would never let anything harm them. Her small insecurities like the bumps on her forehead and the pointiness of her nose remind me that she isn’t entirely a perfect goddess, but a faulty and beautiful human version of one.
Am I crazy?
What is happening to me?
Am I in love?
Then I remember.
I can’t be with her.
How am I supposed to learn more about her? Can I even find the nerve to ask her on a date? How will I ask her on a date? I am worthless and besides, I will be moving away soon. I would just be wasting her time.
At home, my dad tells me that he found a job that should last him a couple months at best. He then goes back to drinking his 40 ounces of Malt Liquor while my mom tries to finish preparing supper before he throws another one of his fits. Usually, he leaves me alone, but sometimes he comes into my room and intimidates me, although I don’t believe he has ever hit me. My mother usually suffers the most from his drunken rage because she will often get hit trying to pull him away from me. My mother is powerless against his large, hulking body and she is merely tossed aside like a rag doll. My father’s drunken barbarism usually ends with him passing out on his bed while my mother is stuck cleaning up his mess.
Why is she still talking to me? I love it. I’m not sure if she does though. The only way we communicate is by her telling me things she wants me to know or things she thinks I should hear while I idly sit by, nodding and responding using facial expressions only.
She makes me happy.
Did I just say happy?
Wow, that’s a feeling I haven’t felt since I won the Junior State math competition in grade nine. That was 3 years ago back when I lived in Oklahoma City.
It’s December and I’ve stayed longer than I originally thought I would. However, every good thing must come to an end. My father told me earlier this week that he found a job in Toronto. Obviously, I still haven’t told Rose. In fact, I still haven’t spoken a word to Rose, yet she is still telling me all about her. Her creamy brown eyes seem to draw me in closer every time I look at them. She asked about the scar on my neck but once again, I didn’t answer her.
It’s the last week before Christmas and Rose bought me a book called: Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter. In the book, Hofstadter explores everything from mathematics and physics to cellular signaling patterns. She also bought me a mug with the number “4” on it. Four is the only cardinal numeral in the English language that has the same number of letters as its number value.
She doesn’t know it but 4 is my favorite number.
I finished the book before I got home from school today.
She said she liked complex things. I remembered that about her. I was going to give her “The Everything Sign Language Book: American Sign Language Made Easy” by Irene Duke but I didn’t think she would like it so I threw it out on my way home from the bookstore.
I wish I could tell her how I feel about her.
I wonder if I will ever tell her my secret.
My secret that explains why I am so quiet and why I cannot have a conversation with her.
Today is the last day of school before the Winter break. I met Rose nearly 2 months ago to the day and I can tell that her frustration is mounting. There is only so much one person can talk about to an unresponsive idiot like me. This morning, she saw me hop out of a moving van when I arrived at school. She burst out in a fit of anger right in the school courtyard.
- Why won’t you talk to me? I want to know.
Again, only silence came from my end. Suddenly, she said:
- I know what it is.
What will she do to me?
Has she caught on?
No, it’s impossible, I haven’t spoken a word about it.
- You have an ugly voice. That has to be it.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I shook my head and looked down. She didn’t know my secret. But my heart was breaking into a million pieces. Small tears started to gather around the outside of her eyes before she wiped them away with the sleeve of her jacket.
The bell rings for the start of the school day and she demands that I go to a café down the hill near our school with her. She says she wants to go immediately.
What did I care? I wasn’t coming back to this place anyways and missing school on my last day wasn’t the worst thing imaginable.
After a short walk, we stepped into a small café, where a French-speaking barista asked what we would like to order. Rose orders both of us a medium chai tea. I add honey to mine and join her at a table near the window facing the road.
- Why haven’t you spoken a single word to me over the last two months?
For a moment, I get lost in the sea of melting chocolate that is her eyes. When I see that she will wait however long it takes for an answer, I try and tell her that I can’t talk to her even if I tried. She will be waiting forever. I try and tell her that it is impossible for me to talk, and the scar on my neck comes from the surgical removal of my larynx, an operation that was done many years ago after I was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. I want to tell her that I wish I could sing and laugh and tell her all about me but the reality is, I can’t even say hello to someone. I want to tell her that my family does not have enough money to buy me a voice box. I want to yell that I love her and that I wish I could stay with her forever but the only thing that escapes my mouth is a low, hoarse gurgle.
- Why is it so difficult for you to have a conversation with me?
I wish I could tell her why.
Author Notes: I drew inspiration for this story from english class where we were supposed to come up with a creative assignment using the theme of "A Difficult Conversation". I took the idea literally and came up with this story.