The Accent Speaks
Here I will give you a sample of those I’ve touched over the years and we will call them by their numbers. I will give you a widespread assortment, enough for it to be inclusive, a representation of what you’d like to see (isn’t diversity great?). I don’t believe it’s necessary to know their names. I’d rather not have it be a hassle, for you, that is, because then you’d be pressed to make a fragile attempt before a flustered apology. If I told you the character’s name was Alec, one you’ve seen, as in what-a-smart-Alec (perhaps you’ve been told this before) everything would be normal before I told you this Alec in particular wasn’t white, and what does that do for things other than complicate them? So, we’ll have my sample be anonymous, because I’d like you to pay more attention to myself, the narrator. I’d like you to see what I can do to their lives. The havoc, unrest I can cause. I’d like you to see how I carry out my job—am I doing it well enough? Am I being difficult enough? Am I living up to my potential? Please feel free to read this out loud to yourself, however it comes out. People do tend to speak differently.
1- doesn’t say much because she doesn’t want others to hear me. Don’t be shy, I tell her, but she keeps me hidden, out of sight. Why? I ask. Why not flaunt me to your neighbors and run me down streets? Why not spin and use and exhaust me until I am worn-down and crumpled? Wouldn’t you be happier then? No, 1 despises everything I am for her. When she does talk, she keeps things simple, like at the coffee shop, where she orders the same latte every morning. 1 is cautious of her surroundings, she’d rather not stir up trouble (trouble is all I am, it seems) so maybe it’s for the best of the both of us. She wasn’t always this way, though. 1 could stir up quite the conversation, but that was long ago, well before I found her. Before she arrived in this country a couple months ago. It’s a shame, really. 1 is meek and I have made her weaker; she has enough talent to outdo that manager of hers, those co-workers with their filler meeting talk (it’s all show and little work, 1 has all the good ideas).
2- is quite different, not one to resign or resort. 2 will throw me out her pockets and run me through burning alleys and buildings and bridges. 2 claims me as hers and does it well. She’s not afraid to. She’s smart enough to know I will not be fixed, that I will not leave, so she doesn’t bother trying. It’s nice, in a way. 2 has accepted me. She will not spend hours in front of mirrors trying to correct me, because 2 wonders what accents have to do with mirrors anyway. Because she embraces me I must make things more difficult for her. When she is talking in front of microphones I will cut through all her brilliant words and ideas. 2 wants to climb the corporate ladder but her bosses cannot understand what she says and she gets flustered, repeating things over and over until she has entered quite an impossible cycle. 2 has had quite the public stints with me, this one. When I’m having an off-day others will get the job done. They will point me out and ask “can’t you speak it better?” (as if it’s up to them). If I’m not the one making their lives difficult you will be.
3- ’s daughter despises me the most. I belong to 3 (3’s daughter flings me away effortlessly) but I have succeeded well here, because 3’s daughter now despises her mother because of myself. 3’s daughter withholds me from parent- teacher meetings and playdates. 3 doesn’t understand her daughter and I make it harder for her. She’s wise, but I make things impossible. Perhaps if it weren’t for me 3’s daughter would have the mother she’d like. 3 craves understanding and I do not give it to her—she longs for understanding from her daughter, understanding for herself, but others cannot understand her and that is where the cycle both starts and ends. 3 watches English shows with her daughter at night, she will whisper sentences to herself, she will attend ESL classes at the elementary school building Thursday evenings, she will do it all for her daughter. The thing is, there is so little 3 understands about this country and this place around her, and the fluid, tender nature of language, and how she’s having trouble fixing hers (she often wonders if it’s really possible), but I’m here to stay (that is the plan, after all).
I treat all of them well. I will cling and stick with them until the end. I am tough, yes, adamant and difficult, but at the end of the day I am only what others make of me. I do apologize on behalf of them, though. I know you would like to hear your words the way you prefer them, just the way you’d like your eggs half-boiled or deviled or scrambled, and yes it’s frustrating when you cannot have them how you’d like but here’s the thing: this was a one-way affair. I came to them and not the other way around. I’m needy, you see, I like to get in the way of things. I can’t be fixed easily. You can’t get me waxed off or straightened or smeared with ruby lipstick. And sometimes people don’t recognize this and they do struggle, but it’s my job, after all. It’s what I’m here for. 1, 2, 3 (and her daughter), will probably never cross paths, but if you do perhaps stumble upon one of them, do convey what an inconvenience I am, wouldn’t you? It would certainly make my job easier.
Dedeepya is a high school junior from Edina, Minnesota. She is a national Scholastic Art & Writing medalist and her prose has been published in The Best Teen Writing of 2019, The New York Times, and Canvas Literary Journal, among other publications. She is an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers Studio and a member of the 2020 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program, studying fiction under Elaine Hsieh Chou. She finds inspiration in busy streets and warm weather. She loves coffee mugs (although not coffee!) and long bike rides.