Tag Archives: rude people

Susan Speaks: Words as Weapons (Take Two)


With a respectful nod to Seether

All I really want is something beautiful to say

Most of us grow up with that old sticks and stones maxim. As kids, we like it. It’s our defense against bullies and the mean kids and situations. It gives us a sense of power and a coating of teflon.

I was a kid who needed that teflon.

I was also a kid who grew up to be a wordsmith. I know that words can never hurt me simply isn’t true. Words can hurt. Sometimes, words do hurt.

Take last night, for example. Someone I hadn’t seen since before the accident called across a crowded room, “Hey, where’s your eye patch?”

“There never was one,” I said.

She kept going. I kept repeating the phrase.

She thought she was funny.

I … can’t say as how I agreed.

Keep me dumb, keep me paralyzed
Why try swimming? I’m drowning in fable
You’re not that saint that you externalize
You’re not anything at all

Now, here’s the thing. I had a client who made eye patch jokes… twelve weeks ago. A good friend in Texas who suggested I wear a gorgeous scarf she’d sent me years ago because it would match the patch… twelve weeks ago. Hell, even my mother made a joke about wearing an eye patch… seven weeks ago.

And the first and third were jokes, asked by people who’d checked in with me from time to time before they’d let ’em rip. Lord knows, I’ve made plenty of jokes myself about this whole thing. My favorite still remains the “Just like riding a bike. Oh, wait. We all know what happened last time I rode a bike” that I left on a friend’s Facebook wall after she discovered that after ten or more years, she still remembered how to roller skate.

The second? My friend in Texas? She truly didn’t know. And we had an absolutely fascinating discussion about the elegance and brutality of modern medicine. We theorized why I didn’t have a patch, or what circumstances might have occurred that would have resulted in having one. We talked about it. Yeah, we probably joked, too. I like to joke.

Last night? Wasn’t a joke.

That’s because this woman is someone in my community. She has my phone numbers. She knows where I live. We have shared parties and rituals. We have watched each other’s kids grow up.

She is someone I’d reached out to when the accident first happened, asking if she could help.

I probably don’t need to tell you what she said.

And last night, she was looking at me as I stood near my son. I had my new glasses on. People had been telling me through the evening that they couldn’t tell anything was wrong with my eye until I looked to my left, and then they could see it’s still pretty red, thirteen weeks later. One dad had commented that I’d been a regular at this, our weekly meeting place, and then I’d stopped showing up, and now I was back again. Was I okay? Had something happened?

So I told him the story. That I almost lost my eye. That I shouldn’t have vision.

That I have both.

That I am one lucky woman.

It’s all so playful when you demonize
To spit out the hateful, you’re willing and able
Your words are weapons of the terrified
You’re nothing in my world

And then her. Repeated demands to know where my eye patch was.

In front of my friends, my community.

In front of my son.

Say, “Can you help me?” right before the fall
Take what you can and leave me to the wolves

It’s been over thirteen weeks. I still wake up at night, scared that I’ve lost my vision; this is where the PTSD about the whole thing seems to lurk. Cloudy days are stressful days; when it’s not bright and sunny, my eye feels swollen — even though it’s not — and things are darker. Walking out of a well-lit area (like my family room) into a darkened area (like going up the stairs without turning the hall light on)? It’s like walking into a cave at first. It takes a bit longer to adjust. Zombie apocalypse? I am so toast.

In other words: I have vision, but it’s not perfect. The new glasses, with the lens that’s thicker than you can get your mind around, help.

My vision was perfect enough, though, that I could see this woman, across a room that was becoming more crowded as we drew closer to dismissal time, continue to make jokes. About me. About what I’d been through. She was just doing it softly enough that I couldn’t hear her.

I wanted to ask if she knew I could read her lips.

But I didn’t think she was succeeding in diminshing me at all. Nope. I looked at her, and I thought that I had been through so much in the past thirteen weeks (and three days) — and she didn’t care a whit to check on me once.

I thought that I continue to stop multiple times a day and say a silent thank you for my vision. That I look around and appreciate the way things look. The sharp lines of a tree that hasn’t yet blossomed or opened its buds. An angry storm, snow on the ground, the obnoxious shirt my son thinks is funny that I keep waiting for phone calls from school about. I was grateful when I got up at 4:15 in the morning last week to put my daughter on a bus for a school field trip, and that I didn’t have to sit in a dark living room with her and wait for someone to pitch in, help out, and give her a ride while I stayed home, acutely aware that life was passing by as I sat inside and healed.

And I thought that this woman was too… whatever… to realize the value in any of it.

That yeah, her words were weapons. Except…

They missed the mark.

All I really want is something beautiful to say
To never fade away
I wanna live forever

Funny how much better I’m seeing the world these days, as I wait for my vision to “resolve” (whatever that means; it’s the surgeon’s term) and I switch pairs of glasses depending on what I’m looking at, as the cataract grows and my eye heals and as I learn to live with a new reality, the outcome of which remains anyone’s guess.

Again, thanks to Seether for the amazing lyrics which may or may not fit, but suit my mood and give my roiling emotions a safe outlet. I am amused that the name of their new album is “Isolate and Medicate.”


Susan Speaks: Yep, it’s true. I am Trevor Wolff.


Okay, I’ll admit it: I’d love to have a song written about me, preferably a love song, not a “You broke my heart, die you evil bitch scum” song.

But people don’t want to be turned into a fictional character; it doesn’t hold the same charm, somehow. Yet they sure are fast to pick up on a negative characteristic and assume that a character is them.

I’m here to tell you, folks, that no matter how well I know you, you aren’t my characters. I am. Or they are me; something like that.

Even if I had been a good enough writer to fictionalize a living person, I learned my lesson in grad school when one of my classmates saw a number of her wedding invitations declined because her family members thought they saw themselves on the pages of her first short story collection.

Now, I’ll freely admit to stealing events that happen from you. Like the time I was on the phone with a friend and one of her kids sneezed right on the head of the other one. I mean, come ON. If that’s not something Mitchell and Amy would do to each other, I don’t know what is.

But back to how my characters are me. Today, I did what can only be called “pulling a Trevor.”

I walked into the locker room at the gym this morning and found a woman (not one of the regulars, obviously) taking up the bench space near the locker I was using even though her own locker was at the other end of the row. She was on her cell phone, despite a prominently posted no cell phone policy.

I opened my locker and started rummaging through my stuff. Did she move? No. Did she react when my Gatorade fell out of my locker and damn near landed on my cheekbone? No.

Did she keep chatting?

You betcha.

Was she still there after my shower? Had she moved?

Do I really need to answer those questions?

I went over to my locker and turned to her, my dirty gym clothes balled up in my hand, and started to hand them to her. I then pretended to realize she was there, and tossed them on the floor instead.

She beat a pretty hasty retreat after that.

The part of me that’s Trevor was pretty darn proud of myself.

I have another outtake for you guys soon. This one’s for us girls.