He had a lot to say—only he couldn’t say it.
Whenever he’d open his mouth, it was like, “…someone took hold of my throat,” he said. “The words just got all tangled up.”
I knew him back then. He lived to ride horses. And his stuttering might have been the reason for that. On horseback, he could go a whole day without saying anything, which suited him just fine. Because whenever he did open his mouth, it was like trying to extract a tooth. His eyes blinked, his face grimaced. Embarrassment mixed with determination.
Inevitably, someone would finish his sentence for him.
“I hated that,” he said. “People think they’re helping you out when they do that, but they’re not. It’s like they’re kinda saying, ‘Geez, man, I’m sorry you stammer so bad.’”
The older he got, the harder it was to speak. He became the butt of a few high-school jokes from fools who couldn’t look past his slow-moving mouth. His confidence went down, he quit spending time in the company of his peers—more time in the company of horses.
“I just didn’t fit in,” he said. “And if ever I was around girls, I just prayed they wouldn’t talk to me, so I wouldn’t make a clown of myself.”
He’d finally had enough. Two weeks after graduation, while seniors spent the summer around beer kegs, he drove himself to his uncle’s farm. His aunt and uncle had plenty of land, freedom, and most important: horse stalls.
To most folks, this kind of isolation seems like a special brand of torture. It’s not.
Not if you’re already lonely.
“I found out that my uncle used to have a speech problem when he was about my age,” he said. “And that really blew my mind, because to me, he’d always been a fast-talking salesman. I asked him what I could do to get cured, like he was.”
His uncle laughed.
“Nothing. Because you ain’t sick,” his uncle said. “You don’t need to be cured from anything. You’re perfect.”
“P-p-perfect?” he answered.
“Quit doubting yourself, son. Stutter all you want, be proud of the way you talk. You ain’t sick. You’re what you are.”
My friend went on, “It sounds crazy, but I’ve never felt so confident as I did that summer. My aunt and uncle just made me feel really good about myself, no matter how I talked. And I sorta gave up trying to get better.”
He spent one summer in Georgia, helping his uncle tend horses. When he came back, none of us were sure how to take the new version of him.
Something was very different.
And he had the bad habit of finishing everyone’s sentences.