Stolen Syllables

Freya Cook

Stolen Syllables The television is always turned up full volume. Just an ear infection, the third doctor says, it’ll clear up in a week. The television is turned up full volume and I move to sit right by the speaker. I move to sit at the front of the classroom; resort to lip reading the teacher’s syllables. Jux-ta-pos-it-ion, I sound out. I cannot say it; I butcher the syllables, tripping over them like high heels on cobblestones. You can never imagine a colour you have never seen and my mouth cannot make sounds it has never heard. Just an ear infection, the fourth doctor says, it’ll clear up in a week. Everything here is disjointed, like three puzzles mixed in together; like a bad game of Tetris. I spend weeks trying to make the syllables of ‘month’ slot cleanly between my teeth. I practice in the mirror, see my mouth moving in the sequenced steps, but I cannot hear if I get it right. I cannot play the game when I don’t know the rules. Just an ear infection, the fifth doctor says, it’ll clear up in a week. I know the shape of those words off by heart, can see the preparation of the lips before the crescendo of the word, like feeling the beat of the music before the precipice of the dance. I stare at the doctor’s pearly white teeth; I see the syllables of ‘we don’t know what’s wrong with you’ staring back at me. I write my teacher an essay of the uses of irony in Othello. Perhaps my greatest irony is that I filled those pages with all the sounds I cannot say. Perhaps if I can trace their shape with my finger, then I can learn their pattern on my tongue; can wrap my lips around their shape and allow them to sail past my teeth, like boats returning home on the sound waves, triumphant, carrying their plunder, cradling my stolen syllables in their hulls.