My name permeated my thoughts. I mentally deconstructed it syllable by syllable, Eh-ri-cuh, as I heard everyone else pronounce their names impeccably. They said their names a million other times before, I did as well, yet it never seemed to get any easier. I envisioned the name escaping my lips as effortlessly as a fine-point pen writes on a fresh leaf of paper. Name after name I heard, “Emily,” “Natasha,” “Annie,” as seven sets of eyes shifted in my direction. I inhaled, but exhaled. I could not avoid this now; everyone was here, everyone watched me. I felt the tension in my vocal cords. They clung together and taunted me, preventing me from speaking. I swallowed, hoping to reduce the tension and maybe my fear too, and then said, “Eh.” When I realized that the first syllable would not connect with the rest, I repeated it. It stuck in my throat; this time, it would not even sound like anything. I sounded like I was in pain, I imagined that it was the same noise people made when they were being stabbed, a grunt that was dissimilar to every sound in the English language. Your name is not “Eh” I told myself, so I started fresh. “Eeh-ri-cccc-uh,” I said. As I peered down at the floor, my cheeks burning with humiliation, everyone just smiled and nodded. Noone else seemed fazed by my stuttering.


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