The Listener

This is an older piece, but has never been posted here before, so I figured, what the hell?

 

I am The Listener. You talk, I listen. What’s up? Nothing, nothing at all.

It’s at the core of my existence, something I’ve done for as long as I can remember, Listening. I can’t imagine being any other way, and frankly I can’t understand how you–how any of you–function as Talkers. I have no control over it; I don’t choose to Listen, and I don’t ask you to Talk, you just do. I take it all in, keeping it, remembering it, feeling the weight of every word. It’s more than hearing, what I do, more than acknowledging the sounds coming from your mouth–I am Listening to stories erupting from your soul, and they consume me without my consent. Is this what you want, Talkers? I’m never really sure, but then, you probably don’t even know it’s happening, the Listening. As the words slip off your tongue, their speed increasing with your newfound lightness and energy, I gather them up, pack them in tightly, tuck them away. Because they must go somewhere.

You love me for Listening. You tell me in the way you keep going like something in you is about to burst, the way your eyes light up with recognition that no one else has ever let you do this before, just talk. Just fucking Talk, man. But what speaks the loudest is when you return time and time again to give me your words, your experiences, your life. And maybe you realize that I too am giving you something: my time, my sympathy, or even the absence of something: advice, judgement. But you barely grasp it, what I’m actually giving away. You just think of me as cool, as kind, as a friend.

But why?

You barely know the husk into which you pour everything: your speeding ticket, your childhood abuse, your failing relationship. I suppose that husk is cool, barely expressing an opinion for you to disagree with, and she seems kind just letting you fucking Talk, man, and when your words are hammering at your throat to be set free into the only willing ears you know, she is your friend. But she’s not a real person. She’s not even a fake person–fake people are still people after all, with experiences to share, thoughts to express. But The Listener, she’s nothing. She is a void, and that’s all you’ll ever see.

But I see my reflection, and I wonder if ever she could be a Talker. She’d be good at it, Talking. She would tell you in excruciating detail her morning routine in twice as long as she takes to do it, and you would love every second. She’d be a freight train, derailing and barreling through your affirmative remarks, bowling you over with a flurry of words, a witty pun, a deep insight, and you would get lost in the way her lips curl, the frenzy that is her hands, the smooth alto of her voice. And she’d tell you all the things she’s never said to anyone before: the time in sixth grade she got her period on the one day she dared to wear a skirt, the engagement she broke off two weeks after saying yes under duress on a beach surrounded by his family, the wasting her body went through in college that she finally realized only after she gained sixty plus pounds back was an eating disorder that just mutated to fit her life and is never going away, the experience of being told at fourteen she’s “sexy” for the first time by a man thirty years her senior while he shoved his his hand down her pants and then made her feel like the villain for years afterwards, the way her thoughts are slowly eaten up by a Stygian blackness like a well of ink tipped over, spreading, staining, ruining, and how that scares her so intensely to her core that she’s worried she’ll never have a clean, new thought again.

But that–that’s only a reflection. I can’t fathom being a Talker. I am The Listener. You speak, I listen. And when you ask me what’s up, I will tell you:

nothing

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