She did not know why she was there. Totally uncomfortable, this is not how she wanted to spend her morning. The faces looked nice enough, they smiled at her. But she got the sense that they were secretly making fun of her. That they knew she didn’t really belong here. Curling up their polite lips out of pity. Tilting their heads. Mocking her silently. 

Women were there. Women just like her, she assumed. But then again maybe not. Perhaps they didn’t struggle the same way that she did. They didn’t deal with the same problems, did they? Picture perfect did not describe the way she had lived her life. She had made some mistakes, and some of those mistakes she did not regret. Stumbling into abusive loves, falling into uncontrolled vices, ignorance and injustice may describe her too accurately. Ultimately priding herself on making the best of a situation and moving forward, there were decisions she was positive these so-called friends would not approve of. She was under no illusion that they understood her here. 

But she stayed, right in the middle of that awkward crowd, more than anything else, because she was too much of a coward to leave. Walking away would leave an impression, a statement, a definitive decision that separated her from the community that surrounded. And she wasn’t ready to go that far. There was a hypocritical comfort in acting like she trusted them, and that they accepted her. That everything was fine. Even if she knew this friendship was false. 

Watching the faces of these other women, it played like a movie before her eyes. Glancing away from the center of her gaze, afraid what would happen if they looked too long. Sizing up from floor to hairstyle, she could only guess what they were thinking. Hidden conversation between the words and the looks. Subtle meanings that she couldn’t quite connect. Although they were part of the same history, she felt as if she stood on the outside. Although they were walking down the same path together, she tread disappointment compared to their stories. And she knew it.

A piece of her wanted to belong and be as free with her words as they seemed to be. They could just talk about good and bad things. They could admit failures. They seemed like they were not afraid. But greater part of her did not want that at all. She had lived with her own thoughts her whole life. Her secret inner conversations directed her life and decisions just fine. She had no desire to share herself like that. Reveal those things that would make her appear weak, vulnerable. Maybe some people, like this group, needed to have these personal conversations. She did not. Even if that meant she walked alone most of the time.

Surrounded by voices and faces, she was isolated. So much to hear, but she stayed quiet. Deep in her own tangled narrative, she didn’t have the energy to entertain drama and questions. It was enough just to keep walking forward, one step at a time. She wasn’t sad, exactly, trapped inside her hollow shell. It’s just how it was. Speaking out loud, saying the truth about herself, she never understood how that could make anything better, anyway. 

What does a word do. Does it erase the past. Does it write a new future. Word. Does it live and breathe and kill and destroy. Does a spoken word mean more that a word kept silent. It’s just a word. A word she chooses not to speak. A word she dares not to touch. A word that she chokes back, because it may be too powerful to control.