Moisés R. Delgado

Burning Silence

I am the quiet boy in the back of the room, the one shaking for no reason, squirming, opening and closing his hands. He’s blushing, because although he hasn’t spoken, he was thinking about talking and has chickened out. You can’t see it, but he’s biting his tongue nearly hard enough to fill his mouth with blood. He won’t look you in the eyes because he hates to. That doesn’t mean he hates you.

You most likely haven’t even noticed my avoidance, though. My only talents are patience and remaining hidden. You won’t see me. Then, you might randomly notice me, and I might scare you. But I didn’t mean to. I was just there the whole time.

Why am I like this? I’ve always been like this. I remember being in kindergarten, deciding not to go on a class field trip to a farm because I had a lot of nerves, my nervios, as my mom calls them. Later my cousin came home from the trip and said a little chick had peed on his hand, and I felt terrible. I thought, oh, I really did miss out, it was a mistake to stay home. But there was nothing to change. No way to make up for it.

I remember being in fifth grade, my red face broadcasted to every classroom in the middle school through TV screens as I ruined the pledge of allegiance, completely jumping over “under God,” mortified, my mind racing, oh god oh god oh god. I had just been nominated as the fifth grade ambassador—I have no idea why or how or by whom—and leading the pledge was one of the only major requirements, but after that first morning, my mistake on display for all to see, everyone refusing to let it go, I never helped the ambassadors again. They asked me if I wanted to, but no, no thank you. I have class. Bye. Goodbye.

I’ve said goodbye to so many “friends”—air quotes around friends because my intense introversion kept me from making any real friends for a long time. These were just school friends because that’s the only time I would see them. I’d lose them all when class ended for the day, for the semester, for the summer. I never reached out because I was afraid, uncomfortable. I couldn’t summon the courage to try unless they tried first. Some would try, but because I didn’t reciprocate that, all of them ended. I remember when my first and only relationship ended, having a girlfriend for that one short week in high school.

I remember a teacher telling me that I would never be a leader when I tried to be a Spanish mentor for my peers, one of the only times I tried to take initiative and get involved in high school. She told me not to be a follower, and she told me that was the only thing I could ever be. I thought, what am I supposed to do, then? You’re telling me to change, and you’re also telling me that I can’t, so which is it?

I remember my classmates voting me quietest boy in the class for our senior superlatives, and I hate that, I hate that title. Because wow, that’s all I’m going to be remembered for. And that’s sad. That’s really sad.

I don’t like myself. I don’t like my quiet, introverted nature. But it’s who I am. It’s what defines me. I would rather be extroverted, but I can’t be. I have such a long list of regrets, of fears. I’m afraid, in general, of judgment. People say not to worry about what others think, but that’s usually what I worry about the most, which fuels my introversion, which is why I’m so quiet. Because I’m scared. Scared that I’ll speak up, and I’ll be judged. But the flipside to that is I’m being judged anyway for being so quiet.

The voice inside my head…he doesn’t like me either. It’s weird that I’m talking about him in third person, but I feel like he is somebody else. He’s so negative, a pessimist. He puts me down for everything, tells me that I shouldn’t be happy, that people don’t care about me, that I’m not smart and I have no talents, that I’m too quiet, that I’ll never change. He often says no hay necesidad de cambiar, there’s no need to change. He contradicts me, and I believe him. And other people, they tell me todo está en tu cabeza, it’s all in your head. But my head is all I have. It’s not like I can escape it. Although you can’t see it or feel it, it’s very real. It’s real to me. Maybe when other people think about their problems, they find solutions, but I just find more negatives. It could have been worse, I’ll think. But this did happen, and this was bad enough. Everything is already bad enough.

Why is life worth living? Is it? I don’t know if I have a reason to. There are too many worries.

Sometimes, I can find some happiness. The moon makes me happy. Origami can, sometimes. Writing can, sometimes. I relax by folding origami, mostly origami aliens. I like folding my aliens because I know how to do it. It’s easy, mindless. Writing can be distressing, but it’s rewarding. There’s a quote we always talk about in the Writer’s Workshop that goes, “I hate writing but love having just written,” and I think that’s definitely true. Writing makes me feel alive because you can be somebody else on paper, or you can be your true self on paper.

This is kind of contradictory to who I am, but being with people—people I’m comfortable with—makes me happy. When you’re with someone and you’re wishing the moment would last longer. When you’re with your friends and you can’t stop smiling and laughing.

Above all, though, I live for the moments when I can spend time with my family. Is family a moral? I think if it could even be considered one, my family would be my moral. To always keep them in mind. I think of my family first before everything, before myself.

Usually, I don’t show emotion. You can’t really tell what I’m feeling because I’m quiet when I’m angry and I’m quiet when I’m calm and quiet when I’m happy and quiet when I’m sad. But one thing that always makes me visibly angry is when my parents are discriminated against because they don’t speak English as well as I do, especially my mom. Usually, she is clear, she can communicate well enough, but she gets ignored because of her pronunciation, because of her accent. People just hear that my mother sounds different and refuse to listen, especially here in Nebraska.

I was born in California, which will always be my home, will always be synonymous with family. I often feel alone here in Omaha. We have no extended family here. It’s just my mom, my dad, my sister Ruby, and me. It’s just that I don’t have many friends, and the few I do have, I usually don’t see them enough because I’m so reserved. So I live for those two or three weeks that come around every two years when we can go back to California and visit with family, when I can just be with them, and in a way, be outside of myself. I don’t care what we do, whether it’s going to the beach or to a taqueria, or even just sitting on the couch in one of their living rooms around the television, watching movies. Being with them, that’s enough.

Ideally, we never would have moved, but my dad found a job here in Omaha. Maybe I got this longing, this loneliness, from my mom, because I know she feels the same way. She hated my dad for a long time because of it. I don’t think she hates him now, but sometimes she still reminds him about how he did this to us, making us move.

I’m 21, but I don’t drink out of respect for my mother. My father struggled with alcoholism, and his father before that, and I saw how my mother suffered because of it.

Up until I was ten, my dad was addicted to gambling. For him, gambling always came first. He’d get his paycheck and immediately go to the casino. Then, whatever money was left would go first to his mother and then to my mother, my sister, and me.

I never really realized we were poor, though, until our house burned down in February of 2014, four years ago now, though it feels like only four months ago. Before then, I didn’t feel it, I didn’t feel poor. We had a home, even though we rented. We had a bed. We had warmth during the winter and cool air during the summer. We had food and entertainment. Even though we didn’t have much money, our parents would always take us to the movies most weekends. You know, we wish money wasn’t necessary, that it didn’t help us be happy. But I think one of the sad truths is that to be somewhat happy, you have to have some money. With money, I could have built a new house for my family, we could have moved back to California. The happiness would really come from family, but money is necessary to get there. It’s the vehicle we, sadly, don’t want. The middleman. When the house burned, it really stood out to me how little we had, how hard it was to come back from that, to find a new place to live.

The house fire was such a shock. Such a loss. Not just a material loss, but a complete loss of comfort. Afterwards, I was out of it for a full year. I didn’t feel anything. I think I took it too lightly, tried to laugh it off, to ignore what had happened. That did me bad, because now I come back to it too often.

I guess that’s when I truly started feeling lonely. That’s when I noticed it. That’s when I stopped being able to fall asleep, most nights staying up until 3 or 4 AM, tossing and turning in bed, having small panic attacks about death. That’s when I started questioning my quiet nature and many things, when I began to believe I couldn’t change. Any faith I had before went up in flames with my family’s home.

How does this time in my life feel? Stressful. My mom thinks I’m losing weight. I’ve noticed it, too. My pants don’t fit me anymore. They’re all loose. I need to wear belts more often. I’m a senior in college with double majors in psychology and creative writing, and that’s a lot of stress—thinking about grad school, hoping to get accepted, trying to move on to different stages of life. I think that’s why I added creative writing. I just wanted to stay here longer. Otherwise, I would have graduated in three years, and that was too much for me, too fast. I feel so much pressure. People tell me I’m smart, but I hate that. I’m just like, ahhh! Do you know what you’re telling me with those words? Do you know how afraid I am of failing you?

I love my mom, she means so well, but I think her support of my quiet nature, I don’t think that has helped me. And I know the people who tell me it’s okay to be quiet have good intentions, but I know it’s not true. I know they don’t mean it. I know most people think of me as less because of it. They think I won’t make it in this world.

I don’t want to be this way. I want to change. I regret listening to my introverted self so often, to the negative voice in my head. I regret not staying in contact with my cousins. My extroverted self, I wish he existed more. I think, sometimes, I get to see a hint of him, but most often he’s just a dream that I hope for, that I wish I could achieve one day.

I’m Moisés Delgado, and I’m introverted, reserved, and fearful. I’m quiet. My reality is silence. Stressful at times. Happy at times. Lonely at others. Overwhelming. But in general, just silent.

I’m Moisés, and normal for me is seclusion. Normal for me is a reaction other than a smile, maybe throwing up a peace sign. But if you smile at me, I’ll smile back at you. I don’t always like talking, and I never like initiating, but if you message me, I’ll message back. I just want you to know that just because I don’t message you first doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the same, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you. I just feel like a bother, a burden. But I care about you. I will listen to you, and I will never judge.

I just haven’t figured out how to care about myself, yet.

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