Writing the Self 1: To Be Heard

Published by Jerico on

The bell rings as my head falls into Ms. Waycott’s arms. My head feels heavy and my ears burn. My cheeks are warm with salty tears and flushed with embarrassment. It isn’t long before the twenty-eight or so students file into the classroom, yet my head is still nestled in Ms. Waycott’s comfort. It became more and more difficult to leave Ms. Waycott’s arms after each passing second.   

Fearing strange stares and whispering voices talking about me, I leave Ms. Waycott’s arms and join the rest of the class as they scramble to get the rusted metal desks into today’s discussion circle. It may have been an hour, or perhaps five minutes, that I sat at my desk staring at the eggshell white walls and the half-hearted motivational posters. It was as if the posters were more mocking than encouraging, especially in my predicament. I could barely listen to the other students’ arguments. They ranged from mildly detailed to as explicit as the Canadian constitution. I am in no position to criticize – my classmates must have spent days to craft their arguments, yet the thought hadn’t crossed my mind before walking into the classroom today.   

Ms. Waycott’s voice cuts through the thick air like a knife through molasses in the winter. It must have been the second time she called on me as the class stared at me – once confident and measured, but now expressionless and devoid.   

“Jerico” her voice echoes through the brick-walled classroom.   

“Do you think offensive and traditionally derogative words should be censored in a free society like Canada’s?” she asks as though I didn’t tell her my predicament fifteen minutes earlier with tears rolling down my face. I stand timidly and tell the class the truth: that I had no idea what I wanted to say, or what I thought.   

I told them that I wanted to speak from my heart. I must have rambled for ten minutes before concluding my point. By the end of my argument, I had a creak in my voice and my classmates had tears in their eyes. They must have never known the pain I felt when I heard words such as “fag” or “dyke”, let alone that these words were offensive. After I finished, I sat down and the class took a moment to digest what they heard. In the air was an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Moments passed and a student in the corner farthest from me mumbled two words: “I’m sorry.”   

I hadn’t known how much I wanted to hear those words or how I needed to be heard. In our small pocket of the world, at that moment I felt at peace. I was reminded that this feeling is unique to being Canadian. To be Canadian is to be part of a community. A community that respects, listens to, and understands all of its people. I had no fear nor shame to tell my classmates of my pain and sorrow. To be Canadian is to be heard, and now more than ever am I reminded of that. 

1 Comment

Tyana Katzell · January 25, 2021 at 6:41 pm

Can you please give me writing tips cause this was amazing?! The emotions you described in the introduction were spot on. For example, when you said, “my cheeks are warm with salty tears and flushed with embarrassment,” I knew exactly what that feeling was like. I could almost feel my cheeks warming up as I read it. I absolutely love your depiction of the classroom and how you gave it that cold brick feeling throughout the story. Your story is easy to follow and understand; great work!!

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