I arrived to my Monday afternoon tute prepared, excited to connect with my class. We’re a small class of around 15, the optimum size class for all voices to be heard equally and richly. I sat myself strategically in the second row, in a position which allowed me to pivot enough to look at my classmates when they chose to speak.
And then it kicked off. The questions. The tutor posed a pretty standard question about intersectionality and, while I knew the answer, I humbly waited for someone other than me to speak—but no-one did. It was the first question of the day, perhaps they needed some time to warm up, and thus I raised my hand and offered an answer. My tutor nodded, rephrased my answer, and wrote it on the board. Then he asked another question, but again there was no response. Surely not, surely someone in this class other than me had something to say, something to say at all!
When my tutor asked the class what intersectionality meant I thought they were all holding their tongues because they were afraid of sounding unwoke. How was I to know that they literally could not speak because they’d traded their voices for legs? How was anyone to know that an entire class of Gender Studies students had made a deal with Ursula the Sea Witch?
It fell to me, time and time again, to answer the tutor’s questions. He was sick of the sound of my voice, I was sick of the sound of my voice, my classmates were desperately in love with a prince and had only a week to be kissed by him lest they be turned into sea foam. I empathised with them, their hopelessness, their silence. Just a week ago while taking the ferry to Manly we hit a bad patch of weather and I plunged into the water of the harbour. I felt for certain I would drown, that the silence of the water would swallow me up.
How lucky was I that around 15 mysterious strangers, with the most beautiful voices, came to my aid and brought me to shore. Before I could rouse myself from my nearly-drowned haze they disappeared. Were I to find this classroom-sized group of sirens again I would marry them instantly. Until then I am stuck as the sole contributor in this room, while my classmates do nought but look at me longingly, wishing they could speak, to offer literally anything to this tutorial.