A lot of what communicate comes from what we don’t say. The unspoken words. The dark undercurrents beneath the sun-glitter surface of our words. The pauses. The hollow empty silences that roar in the vacuum. The gestures, body language. It’s the subtle things that we pick up, perhaps even sometimes subconsciously, that make up the bulk of our social interaction. Here are a few of them.
1. The glances. One flick of the eyeballs, accompanied by a well-placed arch of an eyebrow, and we have disgust, lust, understand, pride, envy, pity. Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul, but rather kaleidoscopes we arrange into the patterns we want other people to see. There is power in the human gaze.
2. The silences. You know the ones I’m talking about. The awkward absences of sound in the midst of bubbly, plasticine-mouth conversations. When someone asks something, and though no-one answers verbally, it hangs in the air, screaming, like a tortured fiend. The protracted droughts of speech, often known as the cold shoulder. Silence speaks louder than words.
3. The evasions. These are the fossil fuel words, the peat words crammed to the very bottom of the strata of meaning, while the jungle fronds of levity above wave about happily, hiding their oily, dark secrets of dead vegetation, hiding, yes, but not completely, exuding a whiff of petroleum. It’s the answers that don’t match the question, the light hearted replies that fail to attack the pith of the request, which cause the recipients of these prevarications to flare with anger or go to sleep with unease congealing in the pits of their stomachs.
4. The secret knowledge. This is when one person knows something the other doesn’t, usually a snippet of potentially life-wrecking information, and tries to look happy and act normal as they talk to said ignorant person, while the suffering accumulates like dried salt behind their eyes.
5. Body language. Shifting body away, cowering, chest thrust out, fiddling with hair, fiddling with fingers, biting fingers. The flesh of our interactions are composed of body language. They are a physical reflection of our innermost workings. So you may be saying you’re completely fine and okay with something, but your knuckles, clenched white as pebbles, tell a different story.
6. Physical gestures. A brusque brush against the shoulder, a squeezing of fingers when handing over the money. This kind of unspoken communication is deliberate, and can have Herculean, earthquake-shattering emotional effects on the recipient. A touch is far more provocative, far more deadly, far more meaningful. The tactile convey a dimension of feeling words sometimes cannot.
7. Plastic. The words are pretty. The mouth is smiling. The eyes are sparkling. But it’s all not real, glossy as a boiled sweet, and can shatter just as easily. You know they’re acting fake, they know that you know they’re acting fake, but you all just play along, because that’s how our society runs. We don’t yell at people to their face, we curse their name later on at night into our pillows. We don’t walk away when people approach us, unless there is a chance, an opening to do so – no, we smile, and stand and greet, as the bile rises in our throat, ripples behind our eyes like green seawater in the porthole of a submarine.
These are some of the unspoken words I have observed during my brief existence on this planet, and my interactions and observance of the interactions of other human beings. The slimy, putrid guts that broil beneath the satiny skin of our interplays.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, words may break my mind, but the unspoken breaks my soul.