I practice what I’m going to say to you.
Pacing back and forth in my bedroom. Walking in circles around my kitchen table. Sitting in my car, wishing the nosy ass driver next to me would mind his business. Laying in bed late at night when I can’t sleep, staring at the ceiling.
It’s a pre-recorded speech rewinding over and over in my head, filled with all the words I’ve been meaning to say from the beginning. And all the words I need to say right now.
You see, I’ve never been good at speaking my mind. I grew up a people pleaser, putting my thoughts and feelings on the back burner — God forbid they don’t like what I have to say. I set aside my own peace and happiness like a sacrificial offering in exchange for everyone else’s comfort.
“You’re too nice,” my friends would always tell me. “You need to speak up for yourself,” my mother would always preach.
So, now I practice. The same way I practiced that Hamlet monologue back in high school. Reciting the message over and over until I no longer need to glance down at the page. I envision your reaction. I rehearse the backup lines I prepared in case you venture off my pre-written script. I'm finally ready.
Time passes as I wait for you to call. But I know you eventually will. You always do. I wait for my phone to buzz with your number on the screen. Because even though I delete it each and every time, I can’t help but recognize the area code.
But this time it’s going to be different. My speech is prepared. I’m ready to call you out, curse you out, and give you a piece of my mind. I’m ready to press play on the scene that I’ve been practicing for so long.
And then it happens. My phone vibrates. I see your number. I answer the call.
But somewhere between the intoxication of your voice and the weakness of mine, my perfect speech gets lost in translation. My mind and mouth both freeze. I play along like nothing’s wrong. I always do. You lead the conversation. You always do. I swallow my words in exchange for your comfort with me. Again.
And somehow we’re right back where we left off. Me giving it another shot. You taking what you can get. Us in the same familiar cycle we both know too well. Until eventually it comes crashing down, like it always does.
Then I’m back in my room, in my kitchen, in my car next to that nosy ass driver, in my bed late at night. Practicing my ever-growing speech. Again.
Maybe next time I’ll actually use it.