Deafening Silence

By Taarini Gupta

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“They made me into a weapon and told me to find peace.”

Unable to convince my own son to avoid the allure of American consumerism in the food industry, I reluctantly take my city-raised son to the supermarket instead of the farmer’s market. No matter his Asian roots, the colorful cereal boxes and packaged chips still entranced him. 

While we examine the flavors of over-sweetened jams, an anti-masker White woman, distracted by her phone, accidentally lets go of her shopping cart, which rolls down the aisle and crushes my toes. Hurt and afraid, I whimper, hesitant to confront her yet somehow feel guilty. 

“Hey, Ch*nky! Watch where you’re going! Are your eyes too small to notice us?”. The authority in her enraged, piercing eyes blurs my vision. Her raspy, Southern accent echoes in my ears, instantly trigger past horrors.

I was just twelve, walking alongside my mother to my first American birthday party. The White cops on the prowl insinuated that we stole the bags -– made my poor mother empty the gift bags on the street while kneeling on the concrete. The helplessness and outrage at witnessing my mother’s degradation compelled me to protect her dignity. I screamed unabashedly, “Rotten cops with bad instincts – ruining our society” – the first unbroken English sentence I uttered without crying or fumbling. 

The pride from the moment was short-lived. Two hours later, a phone call bluntly informed us that my father “died in the factory explosion”.

Devastated for years after that, I lived in dark silence. I was paranoid of my voice’s lethal power, manifesting monstrous spells. I registered that experience as a direct consequence of my foolish bravery. The English words I used to defend myself didn’t belong to my Chinese identity. I forced myself to believe that surrendering to silence was heroic. Over the years, this villain alter-ego gained strength. My heart’s fearful pounding shapeshifted into a loaded gun. And, my traumatic memories became my bullets.

Back in the moment, I am furious, yet no words come out. My son locks his angry brown eyes with my woeful ones. Frustrated by my eternal silence, he corners the lady against the empty Oriental food shelf. 

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?–” 

Seconds later, gun-shots fly in and from all sides.

Few of us escape the terrorist takeover just in time.

Inside, the woman and the shelf’s weight squeeze the last breath out of my son.

I stand frozen outside the store, guilt-ridden and crushed.

He stood up for me because I was too afraid of the consequences of using my own weapon.  

I allowed the silence to feed my monster’s growing fury, simultaneously destroying my son; and leaving me with nothing but more weapons to handle. Looking back at the collapsed burning building, I cried shrieks, screams, and wailed for hours, until at least some more of that bottled-up fury, grew into grieving furry feet and vengeful curvy claws. At last, I felt a little safer from my beasts.

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Taarini Gupta

Taarini Gupta is a 9th-grade student at Singapore American School. She has loved writing since elementary school and has participated in many writing competitions. Taarini particularly enjoys writing fiction stories based on current issues or are relevant topics, but she loves composing songs with meaningful lyrics as well. When she’s not singing, you can find her playing basketball, pondering life’s questions, or watching Short-films on YouTube. Her motto is: “life is what you make it.”

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