Um-Like



By: Emma Folkart

Mrs. Etalucitra painted her nails once a week,
She set aside five minutes every Wednesday to discuss the color.
She was a football fanatic
Notorious for being a little too tough

Um so Mrs. Etalucitra would like imitate young girls for like
using constant fillers,
Like.
Ummm…
“Vally girls don’t get anywhere.”
She scorned:
I don’t know can you go to the bathroom?
Because beginning with because was a sin
And like,
starting with like
was like- stupid?
We all ended every sentence with a question mark
Coincidently girly high-pitched voices already had the perfect inflection for
questioning
We all filled our answers with uncertainty,
Hesitation constricting around our throats, squeezing, choking, gagging on words as
they stumbled clumsily from our tongues…
Girls--
​We stuttered, sunk into our seat
We all surrendered to some sort of defeat
In middle school,

I stopped starting with um.

As a junior in high school, I take college level English
And was referred to as a valley girl
I was offended.
Did he call me a valley girl because I have curly hair?
Do I wear too much make up?
Or, because I like slipped back into uncertainty?
Um and likes scattered across my sentences like dead leaves strewn across a lawn,
A faded semblance of beauty,
Admired for being dead.
My language held those remnants of doubt like that pair of faded jeans I thought I
had grown out
Insecurity hugs my thighs, the blue from my jeans rub onto my hands…
Everything I touch is blue.
Timidity following me, a faithful companion
Was it because I surrounded myself with people I perceived my superior?
Because I never knew the answer
Constantly hiding
Constantly stalling
Uming my way into more time…
Umming
Liking
Differing any decision,
any decisive statements.

Was I upset because Mrs. Etalucitra would have ridiculed my language?
Like maybe I was upset because umm
I was unsure again?
Like maybe it like was because
Words should be certain?
The one thing when perfected, protects, protests, and produces polished possibility
Like - maybe I’m abusing words?
Careless, confused, constantly mumbling
Stupid?

She was a middle school English teacher
Better versed in sports than any boy I’d met
She set aside class time to discuss her nails.
Mrs. Etalucitra scared students and faculty alike.
Was it because she was known for being a little too tough…
Or because she stood for something scary?
Out of the ordinary?
Or like?
Was a woman?
Who like was articulate?
And like- tried to teach young girls
Confidence?

 

Emma Folkart is a 17 year old junior at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, NJ.