The air in the small house was thick with tension. Emily sat behind the locked door of the bedroom, ruminating on the fight she had with her boyfriend Jack. Though, fight wouldn’t be the right word to describe it, as Jack had a tendency to clam up whenever they had a disagreement about something. Emily hated this more than anything; Jack’s forceful silence pierced her heart more than any words ever could. She mistook his silence for not caring and evading the argument without solving anything.
“Just say something!”
Jack sat on the couch in the dark living room. Those words—the ones Emily screamed over and over—echoed in his ears as he sat in silence. On the surface his body was stone and his gaze frozen, but inside a storm raged out of control.
“Just say something.”
If she only knew how much he had to say—how much he wanted to express. But he couldn’t. There was something deep in Jack that was broken. No matter how much he wanted to resolve the problem, no matter how much he desired to make Emily happy, he couldn’t break his silence. It had been this way his whole life. The more people tried to pull from him, the tighter the knot within became. Jack never fully understood why this was so.
Tears stained Emily’s cheeks, but she refused to make a sound. She decided if Jack didn’t care about her feelings, she would ignore him until he did. So for the next two days she refused to speak a word to him: she didn’t acknowledge him, say goodbye when he left for work, or say goodnight before bed. It was as if he didn’t exist. Though, Jack didn’t seem to take it very hard, and instead ignored her right back. A very childish game, but Emily had no intentions of giving in first.
Those two days were the longest of Jack’s life. Emily had no way of knowing, but whenever something like this happened, Jack couldn’t focus on anything but the moment it all went bad. He became obsessed with the fight and constantly thought of countless scenarios on how to fix the problem. But deep down, he knew he wouldn’t be able to give in. He knew she wanted him to speak first—to end this childish game so she could be the victor. This, Jack’s pride would never allow. Which was possibly his greatest character flaw.
By the end of the week Emily began to grow weary. She hated the silence and even more so, hated the fact it was like she was living with a ghost. Jack would sneak out to work every morning, would sleep most of the late afternoon away when he came home, and slept on the couch every night. She didn’t know if he was depressed or using sleep as an excuse to ignore her, but either way it enraged her all the more. And if she was honest with herself, she missed Jack. She missed laughing with him, eating with him, sleeping next to him, and all the other comforts that come from a familiar routine. Most of all, though, she missed the sound of his voice. If only he would say something. Anything.
Flashes from headlights shone through the window and illuminated the plain walls of the living room. Jack was sprawled out on the couch but couldn’t sleep. The shadows in the corners tormented him and the sounds from the street outside caused his heart to pound like a war drum. This was the third night in a row Jack felt these intense palpitations in his chest. They caused a constant anxiousness and made it so even the slightest sound would startle him. At first he attributed this all to stress or his out of the ordinary sleeping arrangement, but as the irregularity of his heart beat intensified he began to worry. He decided if it didn’t calm down over the weekend he would go to the doctor.
“The more people tried to pull from him, the tighter the knot within became.”
Saturday morning Emily made her breakfast and went through her daily routine. She had to work early but Jack had the day off. She would normally eat in the living room, but since Jack was still asleep on the couch she decided to eat in the kitchen.
The morning passed in a fog and Emily was in a bad mood. She had enough of Jack’s childishness. Before she left for work she made sure to rip open the front door so it would wake Jack. And sure enough, as soon as she pulled the door open he sprang to life like he’d just received a shot of adrenaline.
The two stared at each other for a minute without saying a word. Emily furrowed her brows and gritted her teeth, but Jack just looked lost. His face was pale and his forehead had a sheen of sweat on it. Emily noticed this and realized something when she looked into his eyes; he was scared. In an instant all the anger drained from her heart. All she wanted to do was comfort him, to tell him everything would be alright and that they didn’t have to fight. But it wasn’t her move to make; he would never learn to speak if she did all the speaking for him.
“Just say something,” she whispered, gazing into his eyes.
Jack’s lips parted, but no words came forth. He was frozen—unable to pull himself from the vast pit of silence inside. He needed help. All he wanted was for Emily to come over and embrace him. To tell him everything was okay and that they didn’t need to keep doing this. But she wouldn’t, not as long as he kept quiet. All he had to do was speak, but for him, that was the most difficult thing in the world.
Jack’s silence filled Emily with a combination of incredible sadness and frightening anger. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. But ultimately, she only managed to shake her head and walk out. Jack was still staring at her through the window when she left, and she knew this, but she refused to look back. She knew that would tear his heart to shreds, just as his silence had done to her.