Do You?

By: Alyssa Detwiler

She stared, open-mouthed, as the words spilled out of his mouth. Literally. Fully formed words, not really solid but certainly visible, floating out in different colors before falling gently and vanishing into the ground.

Her dad noticed her wide eyes and stopped his rant. “What’s the matter?”

She shook her head, figuring she was hallucinating, that the words would vanish if she tuned them out and shut her eyes. But they didn’t. Her father kept scolding her, his words coming out a dull red.

And when they ate dinner that night, a noble but ultimately failed attempt on her mom’s part, she saw the words “disgusting,” “vile,” and “nasty” slip from her father’s mouth as he commented on the meal.

And when her parents spoke to each other, she heard them chat idly but saw the words spin stories of how tired they were, how lonely and far apart they felt.

At school, her friends talked about their weekends and classes. She saw words tinged black that they thought she was getting fat, that she should put more effort to at least pretend she cared about how she looked. Gray words lamenting about how stressed and tired they were. Green words spelling out their insecurities; that they weren’t pretty or that couldn’t afford things or they wouldn’t make it through school. Arguments were tinted red. She saw flirting in pink. Neutral statements in blue and it filled the classrooms as her teachers lectured.

The words piled up in public places. She swatted at them and confirmed they weren’t solid. They stacked upon each other and slowly pushed down into the floor, finally disappearing. In public, everyone asked if she was okay as she stared into what seemed to be nothing, their concerns spilling out in orange.

She felt like she was going insane. It wasn’t just that she was seeing the words, but that she knew what everyone truly meant. What everyone truly thought of her.

She just wanted it to stop.


A version of this post originally appeared in “Clarity” The Teller May 2019 Issue 6

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