This is a short short piece that I wrote as an introductory piece for my nonfiction and personal essays course. It's also a piece from the memoir collection of my personal essays about love and love lost called Phoenix Fire.
Cat Got Your Tongue
That one moment when you want to say something, but have no idea how to phrase it. Or when you feel slightly disconnected from a conversation, and just when you go to speak up, the subject changes. How about when you meet someone for the first time, and for some reason they have struck you dumb because they are way too pretty for you, or too nice, or too awesome to be seen with you, much less say two words to you. When you raise your hand in class, then totally forget what you wanted to say. Or when the teacher calls on you when your hand is not raised, and you don’t have the brain power to pull something out of your ass quick enough.
“Cat got your tongue?” they ask you. In your head, you are just shouting at them to fuck off.
Being a shy person can be hard, but it can be lonely, too. There are a billion of things going on in your head at one moment in time, and when someone asks you to share, you don’t know where to begin, or are scared of what they might think about you. These are your private thoughts, too, and sometimes you get so wrapped up in your head that you don’t know what’s real or what you made up. Then, you get self conscious because you think people will think you’re weird for not sharing or talking, or they think you’re dumb or something like that, and will refuse to talk with you.
But, I have to say, the worse case of that pesky feline taking a chunk out of my tongue was this past summer. Since I’m shy, I prefer texting to talking in person, so I asked one of my coworkers out to coffee. And got a lot more than I bargained for when the cat got my tongue.
He agreed, and I showed up at work on my day off to pick him up and head out for a cafe nearby. Being shy, I had not been on many dates before this one, so I got really nervous and didn’t talk much. And when I did speak, it came out in a soft voice with all the words running together and the sentences as run-ons. And my emotions get all choked up in my throat, and my face gets red, and then the stuttering starts, and then and then and then….
And then he sweeps me up and kisses me hard on the mouth. Not knowing how to react, I stood there shocked.
When he pulled away, he looked at me funny and asked, “Cat got your tongue?”
“No,” I said. “You did.”