The Listener

May 13, 2024

Listen to me. 

Listen to the words I speak. Listen to the words I write. Listen clearly, and listen carefully.

That’s all I ask—and I’m not asking for much. 

You make it seem like I want the whole world when it’s only the bare minimum. Regardless of how low I set the bar, not a soul is willing to clear the height.

I’m pushed to the side, dwindled down, insignificant.

So, I close my mouth and keep my thoughts inside. I hide my feelings and harbor the pain because it’s easier for everyone else in my life to deal with me if I say absolutely nothing.

But I’m a trier

I try with people because I care about them. I try because having someone is better than having no one. I try because if I didn’t, I would simply give up all hope.

Yet my words still don’t seem to break the sound barrier. I try to articulate the war raging inside, but my worries seem small compared to everyone else’s.

They tell me my pain isn’t real. They dismiss me when I need them the most. They undervalue my opinions, my feelings, and my life. They choose not to hear me because they know they won’t like what I have to say—the truth I speak, the lines I write, the person I present.

So, instead, I listen. I become The Listener because what else is one to do when nobody will listen to them but to listen themselves?

And it’s hard. It’s been hard to put everyone before myself. It’s been a journey to try and love myself when I’m too busy loving others, and I feel less of a person in the process. 

I have spent so much time being The Listener—being there for anyone who needs to vent their frustrations and insecurities. My ears have been open, and my mouth has been shut.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it becomes tiring, always having to be the one to create a safe space. It takes more from me than anyone realizes. And it’s exhausting to pretend to be strong all the time because I know that if I’m weak, nobody will be around to help.

Nobody wants to deal with problems that aren’t their own. They love to share what is personally bringing them down without interruption from The Listener, who only exists for their benefit. In these cases, if I’m going through something—regardless of how major it is or how much it hurts, I’ve learned to keep it to myself. 

A tactic I use to get some sort of indication that people are listening is to make them laugh.

Taking the role of the funny friend means that as long as I’m cracking jokes, they will pay attention. If everyone is laughing, they won’t see how much it hurts when they ignore what I really have to say.

I’m hilarious, but I’m more than the entertainment I can provide you by making fun of something mundane. If I only exist for you and for the sole purpose of giving you a shallow sense of joy, then what’s the point of living my life?

Sometimes, I’m made to feel like that is all I’ll ever be good for, so I try to stay within the box that they prefer to keep me in. In this box, I’m The Listener, the funny friend, the supporting player.

Remember, I’m a trier. If I can’t truly be me, then I’ll try to fit the role you want me to play.

In becoming The Listener, I’ve noticed pieces of my being have gone missing. I’ve taken myself apart because to be liked and paid attention to by those around me, I can only keep the pieces that they like—the things that benefit them.

I’m the size of a pea, smaller than I’d ever want to be. Anyone can squash me and put me out of my misery—after all, I’m just here as a decoration.

So it’s confusing when I hear people say that they see me, notice the work I’m doing, and say that they’re proud of me. That’s when I realized that sometimes it isn’t worth it to try for those who won’t try for me.

If someone doesn’t ask for my opinion, doesn’t care how I’m feeling, and isn’t there for me when I need them, then it’s not my fault. And it’s hard to come to this realization after being taught to doubt my own words by the ones who took advantage of me when I was fragile and lonely.

I kept quiet for an eternity. I took the blame for so long, but I found my voice again.

My words are important, and, if one or two people decide that I have nothing substantial to add, then that’s their loss. My words have meaning, and they have power. My words will move mountains, and my words will have an impact.

My words will change the world; just because you didn’t listen to them doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.

Because one day, my words will be everywhere. You’ll hear them, you’ll read them, you won’t be able to escape them.

And then you’ll wish you had listened to me from the start.

 

Enriko Pratt is a California-based writer with a soft spot for mystery and fantasy stories. He has contributed articles to Stellium, Fictionate.Me, VIBBIDI, and Loose Lips, and served as a section editor for Querencia and the editor-in-chief of The Mesa Press. His primary focus when writing is to ensure he represents marginalized communities, promising always to have main characters who are queer people of color. When he’s not reading or writing, Enriko can be found playing Pokemon and Zelda or quoting his favorite movie, Mean Girls.

 

Featured image by Icons8 Team.

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