Sound. As I type to the hum of traffic, the cross-hatch of MTM’s pen, the pulse of keys, I sob and wish sound weren’t a thing.

I know people who are virtually deaf. I don’t wish for that fate or mean to diminish their disability.

But I am waterboarded by the sound of my own voice. People want to hear me read my memoir.

Or they *think* they do.

They don’t know a theater critic once eviscerated my speaking voice in a review. “Etched in acid,” he crowed.

A seminal theater teacher, the one who taught me to cry on a dime, once stood inches from my face in a room full of people. Her spittle fireworked across my face as she forced me to put my voice in the body, while I sobbed.

And people think this writing thing’s hard?

But the sound requirement makes it so.

I love to read aloud. Always have. Ask any child in my life. They adore me, because they know when I read them a story, their parents won’t be able to calm them down until the following afternoon. Every picture book is a theatrical production; every character a soul worthy of life.

I’m trapped in a morass of knowing what I want. How I wish my reading sounded. What I want my new website to look like. Why I need certain video.

But I only know how to make words. I don’t know design. Technology is my foil. I can record raw footage, but I can’t do a clean take. I always stumble over a word or two, and I don’t know how to fix it.

I wish the solution were to pay someone, but I only have so much money. It’s all claimed.

After ten takes of one NWMF chapter (and several temper tantrums), I decamped to another place. A less claustrophobic room. One of my hallowed places. And I listened.

Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet. Sound sculpture, juxtaposed against Renzo Piano’s vision of heaven. Stick figures with speaker heads. Ellsworth Kelly on a wall.

I wish I could pour my voice into a microphone and use techno-voodoo to make a sound sculpture worth hearing.

It happens. When a boy is three.

And he wants to be carried all over Storm King Art Center on a postcard Fall afternoon.

The boy is heavy. And the perch is bony. And he doesn’t always grip.

But we loved it yesterday when Cooper inched us into a pack of leaf-gazers and shouted, “Mommy! You hurted my penis!”

Cooper and I made a few memories there. We rode the tram past Calders and Lichtensteins and Goldsworthys and Serras. The glass elevator whooshed us to the sky. We lounged under a sculpture and ate pretzels and raisins, and we ran through wavy fields. And we laughed until we cackled.

Some memories for a three-year-old, huh?

But when we asked Cooper what his favorite Storm King memory was, he didn’t mention those glorious things.

“I liked going potty best.”


Thanks to everyone who came out to my appearance at Magpie Bookshop in Catskill, NY on Saturday! To check out Kristi’s lovely bookshop, click here: Andra Watkins Tumblr

And for a Hudson Valley blast of Fall, check out our photos from Storm King Art Center here: Andra Watkins Tumblr

This post is part of the Mirror Series. If this is your first visit to the Mirror Series, please click here and follow the arrows at the top right of each post to read the series from the beginning. Thank you for reading!

You almost came to be when I was two. Nobody could tell who you were. Brother? Sister? Yet, you’ve haunted me for years. People make impressive lists chronicling the People They’d Like to Meet, always designed to impress.

Of them all, I wish I could meet you.

Sometimes, I glance up from the bowl of the sink as I’m washing my face and wonder how much yours would’ve resembled mine. I see a striking sunset and try to imagine whether you would close your eyes and let the final rays warm your face in peace or scrounge for the camera and miss it like I do all the time. Would our personalities attract like the right sides of two magnets, perpetually joined with the familiar bond I envy with a twang in my heart every time I see it in the wild? I daydream that we’d be close, trading secrets, understanding what it’s like to not-quite-fit. Maybe you’d visit me, and we’d stay up all night sharing the minutiae of our separate lives.

I think you’d be a singer, blessed with our Mother’s ethereal voice, belting out show tunes at parties with our Father’s uninhibited personality. Worry wouldn’t furrow your brow. Regardless of your genetic encoding, you’d be the person to make me lighter, as I encouraged you to realize your dreams.


You had lots of dreams, floating in your tiny sea. Snatches of them flit by my ears embedded in particles of air. On the street, I see remnants of them in random unfamiliar faces. I seek you everywhere, hoping you landed inside someone I’ve yet to meet, a person my soul will recognize because part of me died with you. Bits of me were never born, because you never existed to complete them.

You rattle chains around my aura and tap my headboard when I dream. Of all the phantoms that walk the Earth, What Might Have Been is the hardest one to shake.