“You can’t do that,” he says.
“You can’t waste a vote.”
I shrug. I don’t know what else to say.
He’s right. I can’t throw away my voice.
I’ve earned it, this small unsure voice I carry tight in my throat.
I’ve worked hard to find the words that mean what I think, the thoughts that define how I feel.
I’ve debated and researched and spent hours and days on learning my insides, understanding my core, and anchoring my beliefs.
My politics tiptoed behind me, peeking out from behind the sure sense of self I project in front of me, guiding me as I make my way through all this confusion.
Slowly, with each debate, each battle of sides, I formed my very own coalition inside my noisy mind.
Yes to this, no to that, a sprinkling of left and right and center served over convictions and lines drawn on a bed of values.
It thrilled me. Having politics made me real. No longer stuck in my childhood, I could go out and play with the big kids, kick a ball around, walk dangerously on abandoned tracks, maybe even toss my head and scoff a bit at those undecided children hiding their squeaky voices behind other people’s big ideas.
My voice grew loud and boisterous. It disagreed with friends then went to sleep while we laughed and loved and let it be.
My voice stood up to bigotry. It silenced harmful words and preached tolerance above all.
My voice never tried to hurt another. It knew how much it could say when it listened softly.
Only, when it was faced with refusal to hear, when my voice began to scream over drowning, pounding, harsher noise, it found a place to hide. Behind my throat, a little to the left, a little to the right, it crouches in the center where it does not belong.
“I’m tired,” I say. It has been relentless, and I am spent.
“Just tell me where to place my wasted voice, I don’t believe it matters anymore.”
And I drift off to sleep, quiet, unsettled and afraid.