In Zero Words or Less

In the movie The Princess Bride there is scene that has Wesley being tortured by Count Rugen in the Pit of Despair. Right after Rugen uses the machine on Wesley, he says to him, “…What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest. How do you feel?” Wesley just whimpers. He can’t even reply in words. Rugen ponders Wesley’s cry, “Interesting.”

For me, that scene epitomizes the futility and frustration of my daughter’s inability to speak to the people who control her world.

Words, words, words. We are so full of them. At times we cannot even contain them and they tumble out of our mouths unabated by good judgement or reason. And yet, even those of us who have a full dictionary’s worth of vocabulary to choose from sometimes find ourselves speechless, tongue-tied, or at a loss for words. Doesn’t it suck when that happens? Imagine that happening always, in every situation, every time you open your mouth. Now there’s a new level of sucks for you.

Sometimes when my boys were little they would get all upset and cry, or scratch out at me, or throw something, and like a good mom I would respond with, “Use your words.” Because they had words, and I knew it… but what I failed to realize then was that in their anger, hurt, or fear they just could not access those words. I imagine that is how Kimani always feels.

Use your words Kimani. In zero words or less, please tell us what is wrong. No, not like that! Stop spitting. Stop screaming. Stop hitting. Nice hands. Quiet mouth. Dry mouth. Wordless child, can’t you shut the fuck up?

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No, she can’t.

She cannot stop trying to tell you something. She cannot stop using the only communication tools she has. And when you complain about her, I remind myself that this is good, that she is trying to send a message. And when she hurls her messages at me, I try to remind myself that there is a story in her gestures, that there is a need in her cries. I remind myself that it must really suck to know words and not be able to use them.

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