Stuttering

2 min
at 11:43 PM

I'm eight years old, playing at a party when a woman walks in, her children hiding behind her legs. I know what she's going to ask.

"Hey, what's your name?"

I look up at her, and everything is still, the facade intact. Then I begin. The room was quiet, but now it's echoing with the letter "K" as I push at my name, only the first letter coming out. In place of more letters come convulsions, my lips shaking, my face red and shuddering from side to side, almost as if I'm choking.

"Why won't you tell me your name?" She thinks I am emphatically shaking my head at her. So I run upstairs.

I'm 12 years old, sitting in the office of my speech therapist. "You're pushing again," she says, my ears hearing her but not listening, my eyes roaming the room. "Ease into your words...you know you stutter even more when you try and push through them."

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But I wanted to pretend I wasn't in this room, with this batty, spectacled lady who looked like Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter, instead of PE, where she would "pick me up" every day, my eyes glued to the floor as we left. I wanted to pretend I didn't stutter.

A classmate once imitated me perfectly, blocking on the first syllable of a word before pushing the rest through. "Bas-ketball"; but my friends were there, told him, "That's not what he said," and I imagined that it hadn't been what I had sounded like after all.

Then I met someone else who stuttered. This hulking basketball coach would attack his stutter, ramming at the block on his words. But he had so much confidence we didn't think anything of it; that was just how coach talked.

So I stutter. Stutter like Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter-only I'm no longer nervous about it.

Now I'm 19, at another dinner party, talking to a family friend. Another woman joins us. "What's your name again?" she asks me.

I feel my heartbeat quicken, imagine my violent stutter interrupting the soft hum of people's small talk. Then, I smile.

"It's Kiki," I tell her.

With a Perspective, I am Kiki Fann.

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Kiki Fann is a writer and guitarist in the Bay Area.

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