Speakfree tackles romance, hurt

What do ups and downs, romances and bromances and driving people insane have in common? Love. Speakfree, a spoken-word group that performed in Goodrich last Friday, moved away from last year’s theme about hookups into this even more complicated realm. Troy Whittington ’11 and Khalid Bashir ’12 were the evening’s hosts, warming the crowd and delivering hilarious and improvisational interludes between each poet’s readings. Whittington and Bashir began the show by complaining about the risks and rewards when officiating a relationship on Facebook, a social marker of seriousness, including the prying questions of “what happened?” after such a relationship ends. Whittington quipped, “What do you mean ‘what happened’? Isn’t it obvious?”

What may seem obvious to one person in a relationship, no matter how serious or casual, is not always as clear to the other. Brian Thomas ’12 and Daquan Mickens ’12 performed the first poem of the night sitting back-to-back in the center of the stage, bemoaning the “days when talking to someone just meant that you’re talking to them.” According to them, reading between the lines could lead to conclusions that hurt someone’s feelings. Kendra Sims ’12 followed with a skillfully performed piece that interwove several tongue twisters, embellishing the familiar phrase “Sally sells sea shells.”

In his second piece, Thomas addressed often-heard complaints from females about the lack of romanticism on campus. He imagined a scenario in which he would ask a girl on a date, tell her “it’s been a spell since I’ve seen one with such enchanting hips” and lace his fingers with hers while dancing the salsa and merengue or, for more erotic endeavors, involving “your calves, your knees, your thighs.”

Next, Soraya Membreno ’12 delivered a delicate but forceful poem about a crush, repeating their conversations until the words “evaporate[d],” words that she claimed were unsuccessful at describing his profound effect on her. Yet the poem was the opposite of ineffectual, featuring vivid phrases like feeling “the earthquake of your laughter in my bones.”

Hnin Hnin ’10, one of the founding members to whom the group bid farewell at the end of the show, described the pain of unrequited love. Hnin articulated the irony that she was strung along by his favorite word, “later,” because if “you weren’t there before, how can you be there later?” Yet, as she concluded, leaving even a hurtful person is not easy because, “I miss you, then, I miss you again.” In other situations, letting go means running away – fast. Colin Killick ’12 described a relationship with a girl who was slowly going crazy for her love of water. He characterized her as storing water in jars, Tupperware and barrels for fear of losing it during a “personal apocalypse.”

The show concluded with dynamic poems by Will Weiss ’12 and Courtney Smith ’11. Weiss described masturbation as what “every guy does and every girl lies about.” Choosing to promote the benefits of personal intimacy and “left hand dashing,” Weiss candidly spoke about the expression of what civilization has trained him to suppress (“my masturbation is a rebellion against everyone that told me to sit still in class”) and coping with not being able to “have” every girl he found attractive. Smith, another one of the original Speakfree members, imagined the consequences of an unintended pregnancy. “Birth control didn’t control nothing,” she said. “I feel like a glazed ham because my shirts don’t fit, my boobs are too big. He likes it.”

A myriad of bittersweet experiences, though leveled out by Whittington and Bashir’s joking banter and the animated audience, shaped the evening into a sobering presentation on the dangerous effects of love’s intoxication.

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