Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 20, 2021


Aghamohammadi reflects on the difficulty of talking about himself.

Glass breaking. A pebble in a pond. The hiss of an espresso machine. Scattered salts and lavender floating in the bath. A brisk walk home from the grocery store. The early morning. The moments as you wait for someone to respond to your text. The split second after someone tells a joke and before you laugh. Red flowers in the garden. Reading through a letter someone has written to you, investigating every loop and curve of each word. 

Love lives in these silent moments. In these moments, silence has a sound, and it sounds like unanswered breath. Unanswered breath is just the sound of the moment that precedes the impulse to speak. The impulse to speak for me is just silence, and silence sounds like me having to talk about myself when someone asks me anything about me.

What do you dream of? 

Who do you wish to become? 

Are you in love? 

Where are you going? 

Where are you from? 

The simple truth is this: I don’t know what to say. 

In our common discourse on love, the act of confessing is the one most often spoken on. When two people like each other, there comes a moment when the silence must be broken, feelings must be exchanged, choice words must be spoken. Like many people, I suppose, I love this moment in any narrative. It’s all very visceral — that rush, that complete indulgence in emotion, the trembling hands and voices, the swell of music, the crackle in the air when every illusion and misconception and question comes tumbling down like eggs from a basket.

I would know nothing about it. Though this may be surprising to those who know me, I am an incredibly shy person, especially when it comes to matters of love. 

It’s not that I don’t like to talk about myself (well, maybe that’s also true), but it’s more so that I don’t know how to talk about myself. Whenever someone asks me to tell them about who I am, what I do, what I like, or — God forbid — who I like, I freeze up. Every single thing I could think of saying slides backwards down my throat. The very fact that I write this column is somewhat of a miracle and, truth be told, some of my previous essays have been the product of much frustration. All I have are my stories and those who are willing to listen to them. 

There’s a certain irony about this fact and that all I want to do is be a poet and writer, isn’t there? It’s like a food critic who never goes to a restaurant or a weaver who has never woven. I write about love all the time in my writing. In “real life,” however (and this is really being forthright so savor this moment), I haven’t done so much as admitted to someone that I have a crush on them. In some respects, I consider this a failure on my part, as if I haven’t committed myself to my words and feelings fully. Or maybe, well definitely, I’m being too harsh on myself.

Some old legends and folklore state that one of the conditions of being under a spell or a curse is that it prevents you from telling someone else about your enchantment. I always found this peculiar; it’s almost as if the spell erases itself and forces the enchantee to internalize it as part of them. But it’s not a part of them, it’s something that has been added on. How does one speak about something that prevents itself from being spoken about? How do you articulate the inarticulable? How to break a curse when no one knows you’re cursed? 

In Jane Austen’s Emma, Mr. Knightley confesses, “I cannot make speeches, Emma... If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” There’s something about this confession that is so unlike all the others I’ve seen in books or movies. Mr. Knightley actually expresses his inability to fully articulate his feelings, and then goes on to say if he were able to do so, it might actually diminish them. He achieves a near-paradox — saying everything he wishes to say without actually saying it. I’ve never been more jealous in my life. 

I wonder when it’s worth it to confess and when it’s better just to let the silence speak for itself. I wonder if there’s a way past everything we’ve ever seen in stories for an option that savors silence. I wonder and I wonder and I never get an answer. I never see the alternative. The words don’t rush into my head, I don’t have the impulse to throw open the window in revelation, no spell is ever broken. 

Instead, there’s silence. We must all sit in it and wonder what, if anything, we can do.

It’s true, I don’t know what to say. Whether that’s okay or not, I’m not sure. What I do know is this: Even if something is never said out loud, it doesn’t mean it was never felt. A tree still falls in the forest. 

This one isn’t a fairy tale, reader, there’s no easy way out of it. I wish there was. All I have to offer you are more questions and more things unsaid. Right now, as I write this, I’m looking out the glass panes of my window. Night has fallen. The stars are obscured by all the lights in the city. A cold wind rushes through the space between me and you. Elsewhere, someone cries. Geese congregate around a pool of water. The earth readies itself to bloom again. Up north where I’m from, it snows and keeps on snowing. No matter what I say right now, no matter what I say tomorrow, no matter if I ever say anything, there will always be more. Rid yourself of the pressure to constantly be everything you aren’t. You don’t have to say anything you don’t feel called to. This will all make sense later. 

Ryan Aghamohammadi is a junior studying Writing Seminars from Woodbury, Conn. His column uses the occult and the supernatural to cast a light on his ongoing journey of self-discovery. 

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