It takes about four seconds for silence to become awkward.
Four seconds to break the rhythm of this conversation.
Can you imagine what else I could be doing in these four seconds?
I could eat a bag of chips.
Yes, the whole bag.
Put chapstick on my lips,
Review my latest texts, slip on an itchy dress,
Or wash my dirty face, say hi and then embrace,
Change the channel, miss a step,
Harshly fall, break my neck, get up and then lay in bed,
But I am here.
In this break in the conversation
For these four seconds.
Where I’m the star of a cringe comedy,
My face looking like that cheesy cringe emoji.
And then I’m saying,
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha… Ha.
And a simple, “I agree” initiates a game of chance of odd motions.
A head nod transforms me into a crazed bobble head.
Agreeing with what they said,
I put my thumbs up and wave them around
Until I learn they find that gesture offensive and place them down.
My hands give a toonish clap, then flail to the moon and back,
I do some sort of dance, I look like I’m entranced,
I smile with my gums, my fingers do the runs,
I quiver at the mouth, and when I get too emphatic,
It always goes south
When I decide to take out
The misplaced jazz hands.
The conversation picks back up,
But I’m too worried about having possibly slapped them in the face to listen to what they just said.
I receive a blank stare
And the cringe emoji is still there.
So I say, “That’s cool.”
They just said that yesterday their cat died at age eighteen.
Well, I skedaddled with the grace of a herd of cattle.
But I think to the other times. It’s hard not to.
Like when my sneeze showered in a stranger’s stew.
Like when I accidentally photobombed.
Like when I called my teacher not “mom”,
And even though I may break out in hives
At less than opportune times,
I don’t want to become allergic to myself.
So I soar to the address
1234 Cringe City
Relax in the awkward, bulging, couch of continual discomfort, its single cushion plenty itchy
I count 1, 2, 3, 4 and as the seconds keep getting higher and higher
I realize these situations are less than dire
And even though I may nervously perspire,
I refuse to let a less honest version of myself for hire.
Because those four seconds of silence are where I find my voice.
I’ve been strapped on the hood of a metal conversation
Its wheels spinning at the rate of a moving crustacean.
And all I can see is the tunnel that I’m in
Duration and sound are completely shut down
And my lungs collapse from a lack of oxygen
And the light at the end
Is a cardboard cutout
Covering another bag of airtight crispy chips.
And though I many trip and fall, misspeak, and increase my breeding -
I mean breathing -
I dream of my escape until it becomes lucid
Where my choices are recruited
I laugh, I giggle, I poke fun at the tiny pains,
At myself until the upturned cheek muscles are hard to sustain
Until I can put these moments in a poem and be okay with it.
Because if it’s awkward, I have a say in it.
Because savoir faire doesn’t fare well when learning how to be aware and take great care of the self.
Because a lack of discomfort is unwise and ill advised if I make my prize the next, immense risk.
Because it’s absurd to dwell on the awkward.
Because the awkward is merely a flock of birds.
Like, when they pass overhead they’re only there for a short period of time and you’re scared for a split second when you realize that if they all pooped on you at once it would be equally as worse as that time when you tried to compare awkwardness to a flock of birds, knowing that your other option was “mock turd” and continue to explain it hoping to not be misunderstood, and also knowing that in doing so, more confusion will be spurred.
No further comment on birds.
But in the end, four seconds is not quite that long
And if I break the rhythm with it, that’s fine.
Because it’s not a perfect song.