One day, you’ll open your mouth.
You’ll open your mouth, wide, and you will command the attention of your linguistic functions. You will touch tip of tongue to top of palate, pushing breath through the slight space between your front teeth. One day, you will have something very important to tell someone. Nothing will come. A mutiny of vocal chords. You’ll open your mouth – wider still – and begin to blink rapidly, Morse Code and panic. These are not threats.
When I was young, I wanted love like a vaccine. A preacher told me to find a husband, said I had to learn the ways of the Lord. Keep my sex in a canning jar, doused in boiling water, shelved and numbered. In the country of my desire, our God the Father was the north pole and Husband was the south. If you teach someone what to want, before they know want, they’ll match you fever for fever, covet the step of your stride.
I kept my mouth shut. Come down, they’d petition us, turn away from your life of sin. Even your thoughts have betrayed you, your body has made you weak and you are not your body. You are not your body, and so join this body, this foundation, this fellowship of believers, forfeit your body to the Lord.
I wonder about marking my flesh. Consider the tattoos of my friends and yearn for permanence. These seven years have passed and still I shy away from the needle, saying, it will hurt too much, but meaning, if I alter myself, it could make someone love me less.
To the privileged, to those born in the right neighborhood, to the rich or the rich enough, whose bodies and loves aren’t questioned: I have let the clock wind down. I have negated the abuses of your fathers, offered grace where there was none. As I grow larger, you cry discomfort, as if comfort came guaranteed. Did you know, even your Jesus was a liberator, a champion of the weak? When he called on his people to turn the other cheek, he recognized that the abusive party would be made to hit the oppressed with the palm of their hand. This is not a coincidence. Culture taught only those equal in stature were to be struck this way. By hitting them with an open right hand, they were saying you are the same as me.
One day, you’ll open your mouth. Like every other day in your life, you will expect to be heard.
This is not a threat.