Martha Z.

Speaking Deanna's Mind

“We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” - Marianne Williamson

I sat in the sterile, white room waiting for the doctor to come back. I pumped my legs against the bench reading the posters on the wall about nutrition. My mom sat across from me, absorbed in the latest bestseller. “Deanna, you okay sweetie? You look pale.” I nodded. I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror, and she was right. I had as much color as a ghost, and sleep was crusted in my eyes. Dr. Beamer entered. He looked like everything a middle-aged man is supposed to be; balding head and plain white coat with a rumpled shirt and tie peeking out of the collar. He asked me questions about how long I had been sick, if I coughed or sneezed. He scribbled on a clipboard and then came at me with the stethoscope. My heart beat loudly, thumping in my ears like it was going to burst out of my chest. He put the ice cold stethoscope on my chest, and noticed. Bruises the color of eggplant flowered on my ribs and upper arms. I watched my mom’s eyes glaze with tears from the obvious fact she had missed.

I was nine years old then. Six years later I feel a dull pain when I think about it. The bruises were from getting beat up at school. I know how pathetic it sounds. Why would a nine-year-old get beat up on the playground by her elementary school buddies? The answer is that I let them do it. I was, and still am painfully quiet. They made fun of me for being quiet and shy. I told them they couldn’t hurt me, not with words, not even with sticks and stones. Wearing false bravado like a dress, I took punch after punch without crying. I was the halftime show at recess, a cool trick people could show their friends. Basking in fourth grade popularity, I barely felt the pain. My moment in the sun passed, but my inability to speak up did not. Now I shuffle through school, mumble when spoken to and only lift my eyes off the ground when I am sure I’m alone. It’s easy to blend in at high school. I’m not skinny or fat. My eyes are a washed out greenish brown. Sometimes, if I sit still enough, I collect dust. You’ve heard this story before right? A plain, quiet girl turns out to be smart and beautiful then realizes she can succeed in the end. Unfortunately for me, all I am is plain and quiet.

My friend, Henry, is the only reason I’m not completely alone. He’s quiet too, but with me we can be quiet together and just understand. It’s so hard sometimes; I have thoughts in my head like a washing machine, turning over and over. I go to say them and my mouth clams up, my palms sweat. Henry and I can communicate just fine to one another. Sometimes we speak, but when we don’t it’s okay. When we do speak, I like to hear him say my name. He says the sounds almost separately, DEE-ANN-A. Most people slur it, not taking the time to notice three full syllables. It usually comes out butchered, DEENA, DEYANA or just plain DEE.

“DEYANA… not your best.” It’s math class, and I just got handed back a test that completely smoked me. The bell rings and I shove the offending test in my bag, and make it to the door before everyone else. The hallway is an obstacle course. I have to pass the perky girls recounting every pesky, pointless detail of their days. I edge my way past the dumbass boys, competing for alpha male. I brush by the nerds, spewing out algebraic formulas that I would have given anything to know ten minutes ago. I wonder if I am part of someone else’s daily obstacle course. What part of the course would I be? “Sprint past the nobody and you’re almost to the stairs.” Finally, I spy a face that doesn’t make me want to melt into even less than nothing.

“Hey DEE-ANN-A.” It’s Henry. A backpack filled with brick-like textbooks slams into my back. “Sorry DEENA, I didn’t see you there,” says Amy. I’ve known her since elementary school. I can feel struggle inside me. My bones want to break. My blood rushes to the tips of my fingers. Henry can feel it too. He looks at me with expectations.

“It’s DEE-ANN-A.” I say, voice raised. She’s shocked. The sound of my voice emanates in the hallway. It’s a sound I don’t even know if I’ve heard before. It’s clear! I said it with just the right intonation, tempo and tone. I have the feeling that it’s been morning my whole life and I haven’t said anything yet until just this moment when I’m forced to speak. I was afraid when I spoke it would be scratchy and high pitched. Amy apologizes quickly and moves on, leaving me to savor the taste of my name on my lips. I breathe out, and oxygen that’s been in my lungs for centuries comes out. I can say anything.


Copyright 2002-2007 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2007 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.