They associate the quietness with a history of abuse, the shyness with lack of confidence,
And they always ask what goes on behind my eyes – why do I always seem so thoughtful?
Their interest in the curiosity of my mind leaves me tired,
And my overall demeanor is associated with that of one who has known no happiness.
My literature teacher, when I was told to give an answer to a question I did not know, asked why I was too quiet.
When he got no answer, he looked on for a while then told me to sit
And after the end of the class, while arranging books inside my locker and others were leaving to go meet friends, he walked to my seat and asked again, “Why are you quiet?”
And I smiled and allowed my eyes to fall on the short poem I had been reading before the class started. My eyes kept moving over the same words, repeatedly, and I fell in love with the sentence, “I was in love or so I thought.”
When I said nothing and remained quiet, he said, “Quiet people usually have a secret to hide. Is something going on at home? Are you a member of a cult? Or you’re just quiet?”
Looking back now, a little bit older and having lost a little bit of that quietness, if he had walked up to me as I am now, back then, I might have had a little bit of courage and might have said, “I don’t need to have a secret to be quiet.”
But even now, the looks I get are sad because I walk alone and eat alone
And I share my laughter with no one but myself.
So they assume I am sad,
And that my family is upside down and that I have never known a little bit of happiness.
They also assume that I am rich,
And that assumption is perfectly true.
I can support that assumption with solid proof,
But the assumption that I am sad, I cannot,
Because I am confused.
Sadness and happiness are feelings that come and go.
They do not stay permanently with us and that is why they are called emotions,
And emotions are a person’s internal state of being based on sensory data.
We can never have happy and sad people, permanently.
We can only have happy moments and sad moments.
Yet, they term me sad because of my silence.
I get sad sometimes and I get happy, too.
Just as they get happy and sad, too.
But their own roller-coaster of emotions is perfectly fine because they have social relations that I do not have.
But I know my happiness is not fake because I have seen my laughter in the mirror and it looks real.
My laughter tightens my stomach and sometimes brings tears to my eyes,
But they do not see this laughter, they only see the plain smile I offer when I want to be left alone and they term it “sad.”
But if I laugh everywhere I go they will term me “weird,” so why call me sad because I keep an expressionless face?
It has stopped me from going out, too, because I live in a neighbourhood I’ve lived in all my life and the children here are almost the same age as I am
And because none of them are my friends, the assumption that I am a sad person has increased to the point that they need no proof.
Any sort of contradiction from me will be received with critical denial;
Like they actually know what is going on.
What happened to me in childhood?
What experience made me this way?
Why do I avoid responsibilities?
Why do I find it hard to strike up conversations and why do I feel happy when someone gives up on making conversation and walks away?
Did I see something to make me feel that way?
Or did I just develop the thoughts as I grew up and watched the complicated ways of adults?
If I am ever asked by a stranger if my childhood was perfect, I’ll say yes.
Yet, I am wary of people.
Yet, I detest human company.
Yet, I do not have a personal or social life,
And the only activities that keep me going are evening strolls and reading.
That is not the way of life someone with a perfect childhood should have, they will say.
I stare with my eyes on the ground when strangers talk to me
And my parents approve of this behaviour.
Whenever I see tiny children, I put myself in their minds and wonder what it had been like for me when I was that age.
I try to remember something, but I cannot.
They say experiences, one way or the other, end up shaping our lives when we grow up.
That experiences and hurt as children end up sticking the most.
And they say that the mind, as a means of protecting itself, tends to let memories slip away so it can be comfortable and keep moving on the best way it can.
Was there ever any childhood experience that left me traumatised that my mind, as a way of protecting me, had no choice but shut that memory out?
Perhaps when I get older I’ll go to a psychologist or psychiatrist, anyone who is an expert in the field of hypnotism so I’ll get unconscious and allow my subconscious to tell me what my past was like
Because all of my childhood memories, I remember nothing of them.
But I remember being eight years old,
I remember my dad telling me to stand beside my mum so he could take a picture of all of us by the swimming pool.
I had been wearing denim.
Denim trousers, denim jacket
With brown boots.
And I remember hiding my right hand behind my back and digging my fingernails deep into my palm because I had been nervous and wanted the picture-taking to end.
But I also remember laughing because dad had been trying out different postures, all in the name of a picture.
I remember laughing so hard that mum had to give my face a pat and tell me to stand still while she, too, laughed.
And it is on this memory alone that I base all my happiness on.
It is on this memory alone that I can look up at any stranger in the eye and say, “Yes, I have been happy,”
Before lowering my eyes back to the ground.