Sometimes I get the strong impulse to scream at the top of my lungs, just to see what will happen. It’s more of a daydream than an action plan, though, because I’ve never actually done it. A braver soul might try it, letting out eardrum-shattering shrieks at random moments (in class, in Usdan, in my room at night, the list continues), but I’m too fearful of the consequences. It’s unimaginable what such unprecedented screams might bring. Fire trucks? PSafe? My RA?
Because these would be no ordinary screams. If I screamed in the CFA, the sound would echo through Exley. If I screamed in the shower, it would ring in the Chapel. The screams would be so sudden, and so primordial, that people would be haunted for days to come.
What interests me more are their immediate reactions: would my professor stop in the middle of a lecture to ask if there was a problem, or assume that I had just been momentarily overcome with terror and plow ahead? Would my neighbors in 200 Church knock on my door and ask if everything was O.K., or would they assume that I had just seen a spider and keep at their homework? Would the people in Usdan stop their conversations, or go on eating, figuring that I was shocked at what my dining companion had just revealed?
Screams can have many meanings—delight, surprise, terror, frustration—but these screams would be just wicked. These screams would be of the “I just saw It” or “A murderer is in the closet, and I’m not just imagining it this time” variety. These screams would be bone-chilling, hair-raising, pants-wetting. Horror movies can’t come close to replicating them, except for maybe that possessed woman whipped around by an invisible demon in “Poltergeist.”
The main thing is that you would never know when The Screams, as I call them, would be released. Maybe you’d hear them while taking a yoga class, maybe while studying in Olin. The key to their hypothetical success would be the element of surprise.
Sometimes the moment is so ripe that I can feel The Screams tickling the back of my throat. It’s a tug-of-war between instinct and my judgment-forming frontal lobes: do I scream, or do I keep quiet? Occasionally I release a pitiful little squeak, just to see if anyone will notice, and more often than not they don’t, or they pretend not to. Maybe they really do notice, think I’m losing my sanity, and go back to whatever they were doing.
When I was younger—and who are we kidding, I still do this from time to time—I used to methodically test my family to see if they actually listened to me when I spoke. I would begin a sentence, and toward the end I would mumble some nonsense incoherently and quietly. The following sentence was typical:
“I really want to start [drop voice] murpheafkealhaugh.”
My hypothesis was that more often than not my mother or father would ask me to speak up or repeat the statement, but shockingly—a bit alarmingly, actually—they ignored me, or nodded along passively.
Seriously, parents? What if I had said I really want to start singing in the gospel choir every Sunday? What if I had said I really want to start my dolphin-training career, so I’ll be dropping out of school tomorrow? It’s amazing what you can get away with saying if nobody is paying attention.
And I do feel as though we have a culture of ignoring at Wesleyan. Not when it really matters, of course, but in the small moments. If someone walks into a room wearing something unusual, chances are we won’t comment, if only because acknowledging the peculiarity goes against the grain of our culture of effortless cool. If someone plays absurd music, or dreams up a zany activity, we accept it as alternative and proceed to ignore it. Publicly noticing the outlandish brands one as an outsider, someone hopelessly out of the loop. Our scarlet letter should be R for reaction.
That’s why I want to launch The Screams: how do people respond to things that are impossible to ignore?
Alas, I probably won’t work up the courage to enact The Screams. If the entire campus would join me in screaming as harrowingly as it can at various points throughout the day, I would totally do it too. But I fear that being known as the Lone Girl Who Screamed would be a stigma too huge to ever overcome. So for now The Screams will live buried in my vocal chords, just waiting to be unleashed.
You never know when [drop voice] murpheafkealhaugh.
Davis is a member of the class of 2017.