Memoir of a Stutter

It wasn’t a walk along the seashore with a loving partner
It was attempting a swim and then gasping for air in the middle of the ocean
I was told not to try and sit in the armchair
I dared, but the word I wanted to reach was no longer in the ocean as it seemed,
It was on the shore getting farther away and I was so close to drowning that I couldn’t be saved
with a prayer

You see me tapping my knee
one, two, three
I hope for a word spree
But I can only manage sighs
My tongue struggles and twists for it badly wanting to be free
Sometimes it does, often it doesn’t
And it’s a quiet dinner with heads hung low, my failure sitting across the table staring at me

The internet will tell you that only 1% of the world’s population stutter
I mean that’s why some of us celebrate it by singing without music as a disclaimer to what’s
coming next
We make friends at speech therapy
Because all of us are tired and we hate those who indulge in effortless chatter
And just switch off before anyone again tells us to try harder

Facing life feels like lifting a dumbbell, too heavy, but I was made up of less water and more rage,
People term it strength
But it doesn’t speak of my courage
I was fed power every day
And it left no space for tears
I used to rattle my mind for other words that would come out fast
I learnt early that people hate to wait
I dreaded lunch breaks when I used to hide behind the stairs,
Kids don’t appreciate words like solitude and I didn’t want to be called lonely or too slow to
deserve care

Growing up was chasing butterflies for my classmates
But I always felt there were predators chasing my soul
Waiting for me to get out of bed and place my feet on the ground
only to pull me into the illuminating darkness under the bed
There were happy kids on the school bus full of life
I was a smiling kid too until you asked my name and I stuttered away stuck in the vowels
Glued to the window avoiding all talk, searching homes like a lost kite

I used to give up on myself before someone else would

My poems are still the only loyal friends
Because they always listened
And though now my fingers race on the phone typing words in split seconds
I never had the heart to throw away my old diaries
The prime-time headlines of my life
Each poem a collage of a different time

You see I don’t have many friends to fall back to and tell me how was I as a kid
Only some scribbles both clumsy and timid

You ask me why I smile to myself sometimes after I read a complete sentence
Because I am used to success in parts and I fear that now I can’t remember fear
I am learning not to take a compliment as an offence
To quieten the laughter of my classmates and embrace the kind words I hear.

Aishwarya Shrivastav is a 21-year-old history graduate from the University of Delhi and author of ‘Mouthpiece’. Her Instagram is cosmo_rani.