The loneliness of silence 1

The loneliness of silence

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

That’s how many faces I see as I look around the room.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

That’s how many people I share this three-bedroom house with.
Six siblings and my parents.
I’m the middle child. Two older sisters, two younger sisters and a brother on each side too.
Yes, that’s me. Slap bang in the middle of six siblings, living in a small three-bedroom house with eight other occupants.
So why doesn’t anybody see me?

I tuck my legs back under my bottom and pull my duvet over my shoulders.
It’s movie night. Everyone is rushing around making popcorn and tea and sending out their last emails or text messages for the evening. My dad has a strict, no-mobile devices allowed policy on movie night. He hates it when we sit together for a movie or a meal, and someone pulls out a phone to talk to their friends. He doesn’t have that problem with me. I don’t have any friends to talk to, either virtually or in reality. My dad doesn’t notice though. Nobody asks why I never sit on my phone, talking to friends.

‘She’s just not interested in technology.’ I hear them say, or ‘She’s really introverted, doesn’t like to socialise with her friends.’
Who told them that?
They’ve never asked. They just continue with their own lives, oblivious to me. The only child who sits day after day on this couch, with their duvet wrapped around my body and over to my shoulders.

Finally, the lights go out and the movie starts. We’re watching Inception tonight. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a character who can enter a person’s subconscious and steal information. An interesting concept. I have a similar problem. Similar or, more accurately, a contrary problem. I don’t want to go into mine or anyone else’s subconscious. In fact, I wish I had the power to leave mine completely. I sometimes feel so trapped in my own thoughts. Sometimes safe, sometimes scared, but always alone.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

That’s how many people sit around me now discussing the movie. Each giving their opinion on the ending. What could it have meant? Nobody asks me.
And so I wrap my duvet tighter and listen.

“I saw the totem wobble,” my sister Christine says.
“Yes,” My big brother Jack shouts. “So he was awake!”
But his totem didn’t wobble, I want to say. It’s only the people who want to believe he was ok that see it that way. They want to believe he got home and is ok. But really he is stuck in his subconscious, creating his own reality. Telling himself he got home and everything is better.

Now he really is similar to me. Alone in my own subconscious, telling myself every day that it will be ok. And everybody looks at me and believes I am ok. They don’t see the loneliness, they don’t see the pain. They see me here, sat on the comfy chair, wrapped in my duvet and think I am fine. They don’t know because they never ask.

“And what was with his wife?” My younger sister Janet asks.

I know what was wrong, she didn’t want to live in the lie anymore. She wanted her life back. She wanted an escape. She wanted to be free from the loneliness.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

That’s how many faces turn to me.
Eight mouths gape at me
Sixteen eyes watch me.
Did I say that out loud?

“Debbie?” Mom asks. “Is everything ok?”

I want to nod and pull my duvet back up over my shoulders. I wish I were back in my lonely, lost land. That would be better than facing what I had been hiding from all of this time.
“Debbie?” Charlene asks. She’s by my side now, like how it used to be.
Should I scream? I want to try. But will they hear me?

“The film,” I mumble. “His wife.”
They continue to watch for a while.
“You sure, dear?” Mom confirms.
I nod and fix my duvet around my neck.

Slowly the conversation restarts. Mom goes to the kitchen to get drinks. Charlene stays next to me, pulling at my duvet to join me wrapped inside.
“So, votes,” Becky, the eldest, asks. “Did he wake up or not?” She takes everyone’s opinion. Something she usually does. She may have a treat for whoever has the same opinion as hers, but she’ll never say until everyone votes.

“He woke up,” my mom screams reentering the room with a tray of drinks. She puts my hot cocoa down in front of me and winks her eye. Cocoa has always been my favourite.
“What do you think, Debbie?” Becky asks.
She never asks me. Nobody does.
I shrug my shoulders.

Becky glares for a while, I know she wants to shout at me. “You never get involved.” Those would be her words.

“Wait,” I say, even surprising myself. “He didn’t wake up.”
Becky smiles. “That’s what I think,” she says. “Chocolate for me and Debbie, only.”
Everyone in the room boos and Becky laughs, and then they start a new discussion.

The usual atmosphere of the house is back. Janet is trying to talk my dad into letting her use her mobile. Joe and Jack are arguing over which family game we should play. Becky, Mom and Christine are talking about the last pop idol show. Charlene is still sitting next to me adding random things into each of the other conversations. And I tug on my duvet and pull it back up over my shoulders.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

That’s how many faces I see as I look around the room.
So many people I see, yet none see me.
Becky comes and drops a bounty bar on my duvet. “You should speak up more, might be interesting to hear what you have to say,” she says.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

That’s how many faces I see in this room.
Sixteen ears to listen to my fears.
Sixteen arms to hold me and comfort me.
Eight mouths to advise me.
Maybe I can wake up from this nightmare.
Maybe I don’t have to feel so alone anymore.
Maybe I’ll try to speak.

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