Listening to: Symphony no. 7, mvt. 2 – Beethoven
AN UNSPOKEN SECRET
Keeping a secret changed me, and not for the better.
Before I knew what I did, before the night that I found out the truth, I didn’t have to spend any effort to act normal. I was normal. I could treat the people around me as I always had.
Of course, once I knew what had happened–what had been kept from me–everything was different. I was walking on broken glass, slowly and carefully, trying my best not to slip and gash myself. Every time that I saw his crooked smile or heard one of his barking laughs, I tensed. I wanted to scream. How could you have done this? Why? Did you think it was your right? Or did you not stop to think at all?
A scream in your own head echoes louder and longer than any other scream can.
But I said nothing. I watched him continue on, as he always had, with no need to act normal. He was normal. For months, we lived in the same room without me speaking a word directly to him. I spent every free hour that I had in front of my desk–shutting out the sounds of him when he was there, ears filled with music that still wasn’t enough to drown out the echoing screams. Despite what I said, no amount of mental contortion was going to excuse him.
It was worse, though, when I was alone. It was no longer the comfortable solitude that allowed me to recover from a long day of classes. The room seemed emptier than usual, almost hollow despite the cluttered space. The quiet was so absolute that even the soft ticking of my pocket-watch, sitting on the desk beside me, could be distinctly heard.
I withdrew from social circles and merely went through the motions of attending class. I couldn’t focus with him a few seats over, continuing on as if nothing had happened. He didn’t need to act normal. He was normal. I skipped out on study sessions that he might be attending. I failed the final exam of one of the classes we shared, and only the excellent grades that I’d had for the first half of the semester prevented me from having to repeat the class.
Final exams ended for him, and he left with his usual jaunty confidence. I had found that aspect of his personality amusing, once. Now it was a reminder of what he had done–what he had hidden from everyone. We exchanged hollow promises of seeing each other next year. It was the first time I had spoken to him in three months. It would be one of the last.
That semester–pretending to be normal, going through the motions of a life turned on its head–was one of the worst of my life.
I can’t begin to imagine how much worse it must have been for her.