November 5th, 2014
It’s my birthday today. I’m 15 years old. My grandmother gave me this book with a forced smile on her face. She told me that it would be a good idea to write about everything, since I don’t speak. She used the word “mute”.
I don’t like the word “mute”.
My name is Benjamin Preston, and I have taken refuge in silence. Three years ago on this day my parents got hit by a car while crossing the street. My dad died instantly and my mom died a little while later because she lost too much blood.
Of course, there’s no one who is reading this. But who’s to say I can’t pretend to have a conversation with someone, since I don’t want to have a real one? Maybe this will be fun.
Anyhow, I am 15 and in school, therefore I have to do homework just like every other 15 year old. Goodbye.
November 6th, 2014
Do you like your name? I’ve decided to call you Dawn, because Dawn means sunrise and I’m watching the sunrise right now. I have school today; it’s only Thursday. It feels like a Friday, doesn’t it?
I don’t like school.
Most people don’t like school, but I have a particular distaste for the place. The teachers aren’t the problem, neither is the work, or the lessons. It’s the other kids.
They’re the reason I dread walking into that building every morning; everyone has a best friend, or a group of friends that they belong to except me. I mean, who wants to be friends with a kid who doesn’t talk?
I used to have one friend, his name was Jared. We used to sit together at lunch for the first few days of freshmen year, which was last year. He only sat with me because at the time he had no other friends, and we knew each other a little bit because we played baseball together in 3rd grade. But after a while he left me to sit at another table, because he was sick of all the silence. I was used to sitting alone, though, because I hadn’t actually sat with another person at lunch since September of 8th grade, right before my parents died.
If I had a friend, I’d want him or her to be like you, Dawn. When I started writing this entry today I could almost imagine you sitting beside me, listening carefully to every little detail. You don’t care that my words don’t flow from my mouth, like most people’s words do. You don’t care that instead of laughing or singing or talking all you hear from me is deafening silence.
School is waiting for me, and so is an impatient grandmother yelling for me from the bottom of the stairs, telling me I’m going to be late. Goodbye, Dawn.
November 7th, 2014
It’s Friday night. Every Friday after school I like to go to the library, where the silence is at its loudest.
Every Friday I stay at the library until it closes. When my grandmother finally picks me up, we go through our usual routine.
“How was school?” She usually asks me, even though she knows I won’t reply. “Do you have a lot of homework?” She’ll ask next, and I’ll nod, not saying a word. Next, she’ll sigh and start to drive. Every day she hopes I’ll start to talk like I used to. Every day I give her the same answer. She gives me a speech about how it’s unhealthy for a person to keep all their feelings inside. I look out the window, pretending I’m not listening. She gets irritated at some point, and says that it’s not enough for me to talk only when I have to, and that it’s part of society and part of human nature to communicate. In my head I tell her I don’t care what society does, because society doesn’t control me.
It’s just an average Friday.
November 10th, 2014
I wish I wasn’t like this sometimes; sometimes I wish I was like everyone else. Then maybe I would still be talking and laughing like every other person I know. Do you think things would be different?
I used to imagine what life would be like if they were still here. I would picture a complete family, with both of my parents, my grandmother, and possibly a baby brother or sister. Then I would try to make myself dream of them, and hope I would never wake up.
But I always wake up.
Why is it so easy to tell you everything? I have many secrets that I’ve never told anyone. Yet I seem to tell you everything. Is it because you understand me? Is it because you aren’t real?
I hope that one day I’ll meet someone like you, because I need someone who understands me.
Everything would be much easier if you could just come to life. I wish the line between my imagination and reality would become blurry, just enough for you to step over and join me.
I wish, I wish, I wish.
If only I came across a couple of shooting stars.
November 13th, 2014
After I wrote to you on Monday I had to hurry to catch my bus. I carelessly threw this book on my desk, and ran to make it to school on time. When I got back from school, I rushed to do my homework and I didn’t realize this book wasn’t on my desk. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning when I went to write to you that I realized this book was missing. I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find you. I went to the library, and looked there too, thinking that maybe I brought it with me and I forgot. Wednesday night I found this book in the hands of my grandmother. She had fallen asleep on the living room couch, with this book pressed tightly to her. A little drop of sadness rolled off of her cheek and onto the couch. I took my book back; I was a little mad, but after seeing how sad she had been I let it go. I let her sleep, and brought this book back upstairs and hid it in between my school books on my desk, where it belongs. But before I put it away I looked at the page she was on, and realized that she had been reading the last entry, about my parents. And after three years, I realized that I’m not be the only one affected by my parent’s passing.
Today morning she was extra quiet. Only right before I left for school she asked, in a strange and alien voice, “How is that journal coming along? Is it useful?” She knew I wouldn’t respond, and I didn’t. Instead I smiled and nodded. She and I both knew that I saw her with the book, but she didn’t want to bring it up.
November 14th, 2014
Today after school, I headed to the library as I usually do on Friday afternoons.
Mrs. Collins, one of the librarians, was at the front desk. She smiled at me as I walked by, “Hey, Benny.” She said, in a soft voice. I don’t like to be called Benny. I smiled and nodded in her direction. “Wait!” She said, making me turn around. “Could you do me a favor?” I nodded hesitantly. “Great.” She said, beckoning me to come closer to the desk. “My niece just moved here to New York from Boston. She doesn’t have many friends. She’s over there, at that table.” She said, pointing towards the science fiction section. “I know it’s your favorite section anyway, but would you mind sitting with her? You don’t have to talk to her, of course.” She added quickly.
All of a sudden, I knew what this was about. Mrs. Collins was good friends with my grandmother; she talked to my grandmother after church while my grandmother was waiting for me to come out. My grandmother was always trying to make friends for me.
I found myself smiling and walking towards the science fiction section. I’m going to be there anyway. Reading was a way for me to hear all the action and noises without actually having to hear them.
I set my things on the floor next to a chair, pulled out the book I had started the week before. I sat down in my chair and started to read. It was only a few minutes later when I noticed that the girl was staring at me over the top of her book. When she saw I noticed her, she smiled and went back her book. I peeked over to her bag, which was on the floor, and saw that her nametag read Aurora. That made me stop and think for a moment, because I remembered that Aurora means “the dawn” in Latin. I went back to my book, but I realized that she was looking at me again. She set her book down, “I’m Aurora.” She said, in a soft voice. I nodded and pointed to her bag. I know. It says it right there. “Mrs. Collins is my aunt. She asked you to sit here, didn’t she?” She whispered, embarrassed. I nodded, then went back to my book. “I didn’t catch your name?” She said, trying to get me to speak; she didn’t know. Well, how do you expect to catch it if I haven’t thrown it? “Okay…” She said, not catching on to the fact that I wasn’t talking to her. “I moved here from Boston.” I nodded. “I’m in 8th grade.” She offered, still trying to make me talk, “What grade are you in?” I sighed, and put my book away, knowing that she wouldn’t leave me alone. I took out a piece of paper from my bag. “What are you doing?” She asked, and I took out a pen and wrote: My name is Ben. I’m a sophomore.
“That’s cool.” She said, “So… why aren’t you talking?”
I don’t speak. I wrote on the paper.
“Did you lose your voice?” She asked, with wide eyes. “Do you usually write your answers to everything on a piece of paper? Doesn’t that hurt your hand? Isn’t it easier to just talk?”
Well most people don’t ask me so many questions, and I don’t have much to say.
“Oh.” She said, “Sorry.”
Did you know that your name means “the dawn”? I wrote.
“Yeah.” She said.
We talked for a while longer. Or, rather, she talked and I wrote. It was my first real conversation in a long time that I actually enjoyed.
January 30, 2015
It has been two months and 16 days since I last wrote to you. I promise, though, I have a perfectly good reason. I started to become happy again.
The truth is, I can’t be happy. It’s not what’s meant to be. I can’t laugh, or make friends, or have fun. Why? I’m scared, Dawn.
Every time I smile it brings me pain, because I realize that—just for a few seconds—I’ve forgotten about my parents. Does that make me a bad person? What kind of person can forget about their dead parents?
So, Dawn, I can’t be friends with that girl Aurora, because she reminds me of what you would be like if you were real.
I can’t write to you and express my feelings, because if my grandmother were to come across this book again, she’d try to do everything to make me happy again. I can’t be happy. It’s not meant to be. I hope you understand.
I’m going to burn this book so that nobody can ever read this again.
I’m sorry, Dawn.
January 31st, 2015
I couldn’t do it. Burn the book, I mean. I thought of different ways to do it. There was always the ancient fireplace that my grandmother still used. But I held the book over the fireplace, the heat from the flames tickling my fingers, and I realized I couldn’t do it. Burning this book would be like… killing you. And that would make me a murderer, wouldn’t it?
Aurora hasn’t given up on me, even though I haven’t written a reply to her constant talking in the last two months, she comes over with her aunt, the librarian, every time she can. She’s convinced that she can make me talk again; naïve little 8th grader.
On the other hand, my grandmother is off my back. I heard her talking to Mrs. Collins. “I don’t get it,” she said. “The more I try, the more he runs away.”
“Then don’t try.” Mrs. Collins suggested, “Maybe he’ll come running to you.”
I like Mrs. Collins’ suggestion. She’s wrong about the second part, obviously, but thanks to her suggestion my grandmother has left me alone. I wonder why my grandmother hasn’t gone back to nagging, even though she’s seeing that Mrs. Collins’ suggestion isn’t working. Maybe she has actually given up on me. Or there’s the possibility that she’s still hoping I’ll work out “my problems” on my own.
But that’s the thing. I don’t see the absence of my voice as a problem. So there’s nothing for me to fix, is there?
I’m cheating. I said I can’t write in this book anymore, because writing to you makes me happy. Yet, here I am, writing again. I guess I really am a bad person.
I honestly don’t remember what I even wanted to write to you today. All I know is that I reached for this book without thinking, and began to write.
Aurora was supposed to come over today with Mrs. Collins. But Mrs. Collins is here and Aurora is not, for the first time in forever. Maybe she’s given up on me.
It makes me sad. You know, to think that maybe Aurora has given up on me. I know I shouldn’t be thinking like this, since it’s for the best that she’s not bugging me to be friends with her anymore.
February 2nd, 2015
I tried burning this book again. I still can’t do it.
February 3rd, 2015
I did it. Well, almost. I dropped the book in a few hours ago. I watched as the flames teased the book for a few seconds, and I couldn’t bear to watch the flames close around it, so I put out the fire. The book was hot, and burned, but it was still mostly intact. The back cover is pretty burnt and so are the last few pages. But the front is mostly okay.
My hand is not, though. I’m dreading the look on my grandmother’s face when she comes home and sees it.
February 4th, 2015
I might not be able to destroy this book, but I know I can’t write in it anymore. I’m sorry, Dawn. I’m going to write to Aurora to hide it for me. Preferably in her house, because I know I’ll never go there.
February 5th, 2015
Aurora said no. She said she’s not going to hide the only thing that makes me happy. Why not?
“You push me away, you push your grandmother away, and you push everyone away. You need the book. Humans need to convey their feelings somehow. You’ll just explode otherwise.”
I’m going to ask my grandmother.
February 5th, 2015 (later)
Why will no one hide you from me? Grandmother said she won’t either.
Maybe Mrs. Collins will help. I’ll ask her tomorrow.
November 5th, 2023
You have no idea of the mixed emotions that blew through me when I found this book in my grandmother’s room. We have so much to talk about. It turns out Mrs. Collins never hid the book after she agreed to, instead she gave it back to my grandmother, eight years ago.
Nine years from today is the first time I wrote in this book. Do you remember, Dawn?
Once I found the book in her room, I went downstairs immediately to confront her. I asked her why she still had the book.
Yes, you read that correctly. I asked her. After high school graduation, I started talking again. “Told you so.” Aurora had said to my grandmother.
Anyway, she didn’t answer at first, because she had no idea what I was talking about. “What book?” She asked.
“The book.” I said, holding it up.
“Oh, that.” She said, waving it away, and wouldn’t answer my question.
I guess I’m happy she kept this book. It doesn’t have many entries in it, but it’s still important to me, you know?
Well, what do you think of me talking again, Dawn? I hope you approve.
Aurora is downstairs now, I can hear her calling for me. I just replied saying “Coming!” with a smile on my face, remembering how much I was against talking the last time I wrote in this book.
I was wrong before. Being happy all these years later doesn’t make me a bad person. My parents would have wanted me to move on. I might have taken a while to realize it, but at least I did eventually.
I can hear Aurora coming up the stairs, wondering why I’m taking so long. I have to go. I’ll write to you tomorrow.