“Come on, talk, say something,” my parents would tell me over and over again. Yet, I would not utter any words to them. I did not answer questions, I did not initiate dialogue, and I did not cry out for help.
You see, one day, I had realized that my words had power, when listeners began to disappear at the sound of my words. I then made a decision to remain silent. Whether I whispered or shouted out, the result was the same. Emitting one word initiated the vanishing.
It first started when I replied, “Beautiful day!” to a passerby who smiled back while dissipating into the sidewalk. Then, when I inadvertently answered “See you tonight” to my best friend who immediately melted into the bus seat. The fading was instantaneous, just enough for me to watch as a listener ceased to exist.
Yet again on a third occasion, my younger sister Ally called out my name. Instinctively I remarked with a “Yes”. This time though, the sounds of this word split into three distinct parts each aiming to hit their marks separately and slowly. First the sound of “y” erased her legs and feet, next the sound of “e” dissolved her head, neck and shoulders and then, the sound of “s” made her torso, arms and hands fainter and fainter until they were gone. I watched in terror and amazement.
Determined to find a remedy, I attempted to voice my words in other languages but to no avail, listeners still dissolved away into the surroundings. So, I minimized my conversations to a series of quick nods, multiple shakes of the head, and fixed stares. Eventually, my presence was no longer acknowledged.
I thought, “This cannot happen. I will not be ignored”.
The next morning, during my daily walk into town, I whispered, “Listen!” to those I passed by. Strong and determined I kept on repeating this word while my whispers became passionate shouts, each shout a blade skillfully penetrating its mark. My hypnotizing chants of “Listen!” echoed through the streets as I marched on my conquering path of glory, until there were no more listeners.
I had reached the abandoned warehouse when I realized that gathered around me was a pack of stray dogs wearing collars woven from twigs and branches. Intricate lacings meticulously made to fit snugly around their necks. There was neither barking nor growling. Instead, with their eyes gazing into mine the dogs steadily lead me to the north end of town and deep into the thick forest. Here side by side waiting for my arrival was a horizontal line of trees that stretched for miles across the horizon. I recognized them all: elm, oak, cedar, willow, maple, birch, poplar, spruce, and pine, each at its fullest, weaving one into the other. At their roots before each tree trunk sat one dog motionless and alert like sentinels waiting, carefully keeping watch. I crouched down to meet their penetrating gaze. In unison the trees, with their pointed branches locked and loaded, stood anticipating my command.
“Listen” I whispered as I faded away.
Enne Tesse is an artist creating sculptures, installations and works on paper using fabric and text. Her stories originate from and reflect her own hand-stitched garment inspired works and fabric objects. She has exhibited her work in top museums and galleries in the US and Japan, including MoMA/PS1 NY, MOMAK Kyoto, and MOT Tokyo. Recent exhibitions include "Unusual Threads", Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester, VT; "Art Stands Still", Collar Works, Troy, NY; "Time Travelers", Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz. She lives and works in Beacon, NY.