Or: The Silver Tongue

D. R.
10 min readFeb 14


Myself, imitating a cowboy in Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada — 2022

Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future.

— Euripides

I’ve been told I have a silver tongue. A silver tongue means someone is skilled at talking and is persuasive. This one attribute (alongside what I believe to be a decent looking face) has allowed me (for the most part) to glide gracefully through life, deservedly so or not.

It has allowed me to be a careless and successful flirt, to avoid academic expulsion by charming my instructors, and to maintain friendships that would’ve faded long ago otherwise due to a failure on my part to properly appreciate them.

My dentist noticed a white patch on my tongue, he believed it should be checked out. The oral surgeon agreed and cut off a bit of my tongue and stitched it up. It currently hurts to talk and eat.

I’m waiting to find out if my silver tongue has the potential to kill me.

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way…

— “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell

I am 26 now. Another year has passed and I feel as though nothing and everything has changed since I turned 25.

This has admittedly been one of the hardest for me, even though it began on a wonderful note. I interned with a union in January. It was a shortened version of their usual internship program, another casualty of Covid. Regardless, I learned a lot, met some wonderful people, and finally managed to find paying work in organized labor.

Then it ended.

I was faced with two horrible choices: starving to death or returning to work in retail.

I chose the former for a few months as I sent application after application to unions, non-profits, anything other than retail stores. Unfortunately, it seemed like the American economy only saw me worthy of selling suits.

The silver tongue returned to convince men that they didn’t need one shirt, they needed five. I did this for a while to stay alive, even though it didn’t seem worth the effort at times. Eventually, after another short stint working in organized labor, I was hired to my first full-time position.

It is by far the best job I’ve ever had: It pays well, it is fulfilling, I get to work from home 90% of the time, my coworkers and supervisors are genuine and caring individuals, and it is ethical work — I can sleep easy cashing my paychecks.

Interviewing workers from Starbucks for the paper I volunteer for, I expressed my sympathies with their struggles as being similar to those I experienced when I worked in retail. I then expressed how grateful I was to be out of that field and working in my current one. They asked me how I was able to get such a great job. I tensed up, a tinge of guilt came over me.

“I got lucky.”

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all…

I used to have long hair, down to my shoulders at its furthest extent. Prior to high school, it was somewhat manageable. As I got older, the curls and waves began to spring forth. I was a hippie up until I bought a shirt at Woodstock during a trip there with my Dad — the Woodstock logo had the copyright symbol beside it. Disillusioned with one subculture and finding passion in another, I opted to shear my tangled locks on the last day of sophomore year.

At that time, I was of the age and temperament where sex was more or less the only thing on my mind 24/7. Unfortunately for my early-teenage self, I had very little luck in the romance department. It wasn’t that I couldn’t talk to girls or be friendly with them, I was never awkward to that extent, I simply wasn’t able to foster strong platonic friendships with them, let alone romantic ones.

Getting a haircut changed that.

Myself, before anyone had the decency to tell me otherwise. — 200X?

The same day I cut it, there was a function after school for students involved in the orchestra, chorus, or band. At that event, a girl came up to me, gave me her number, and asked if I wanted to hang out over the summer. We did.

When we were back in school the following year, she asked me if I intended to ask a mutual friend (my crush at the time) out now that her and her boyfriend had broken up. I said I had no such intentions.

A short while later, I was indeed dating that girl — my first monogamous, “boyfriend & girlfriend” relationship.

To this day, at age 26, it remains my only one. Yet, with admittedly poor recollection, I believe I have been romantic (to varying degrees) with individuals numbering in the triple digits.

An old song comes to mind for no particular reason:

“Just a gigolo,
Everywhere I go,
People know the part
I’m playing…”

Due also to my poor recollection, I am unable to recall many of these encounters without significant strain — a large portion of my memory was washed away with the help of countless 750 ml bottles.

Some of these encounters were meant to be forgotten, one-night trysts arrived at in mutual understanding. Others were more significant but either did not leave much of an impact or are simply victims of time. The ones that meant the most to me are impossible to forget.

The latter are also easier to remember because there have been so few and I have almost always been responsible for their ends.

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
And you leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away…

I’ll dedicate a more thorough piece to exploring my romantic life in the near future — my struggles, my failures, even the positives — but it would take up far too much space here.

On my 26th birthday, this ironic Valentine’s baby wishes to extend an apology to all those amazing individuals in my life who have been kind enough to spend even a modicum of their time with me. I feel entirely unworthy and have made that clear to those patient enough to find out who was behind the silver tongue.

I have been asked by many of my partners why I have such an affinity for love songs when I actively concede that I have such a difficult time grappling with my own feelings and actions in the world of romance. Day to day, I am constantly trying to understand exactly what I want, what I am missing, what I am looking for, and being entirely unsatisfied with my conclusions the following morning.

There are days when I am entirely convinced that I am polyamorous and will live the rest of my days dating multiple individuals, some more casual and some more serious. Other days, I am certain that there is one individual that I am simply waiting for to arrive in a Hollywood-esque fashion to sweep me off my feet into matrimony.

Other days, I want to become a monk.

What is my intended birthday gift to myself this year? A therapist.

Perhaps they’ll be able to help, as long as they can get past the silver tongue.

My only goal in this pursuit is to ensure that I can stop unintentionally hurting those kind enough to care about me, and not be terrified of the reality that they do.

A painting hangs over my bed depicting Diana holding Cupid’s bow above her head, denying him his weapon of love. Are “Freudian art choices” a thing?

“Diana and Cupid” by Pompeo Batoni

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know love at all…

I am depressed. There’s no use beating around the bush.

The winter has been unbelievably difficult for me and I am desperate for the return of warm weather. There is something about days spent in Central Park that can make this dismal world of ours seem worth it to me. The worries and terrors that haunt us melt away against the glow of the sun and the laughter, shrieks, and singing that fills every corner of that urban oasis.

My favorite spot is near The Lake, just north of Cherry Hill. I lie down on top of my blanket and lean against a tree before burying myself into whatever book I’ve decided to bring with me. I stop every once in a while to people watch or just enjoy the beauty that surrounds me. In April, a cherry tree blooms.

I think I find myself so at peace there because I tend to not hear the incessant inner-voice that presents itself whenever I am not sufficiently distracted.

The voice that tells me that I wasted my life. The voice that reminds me of all my past failures, that mocks any effort to better myself in an effort to prevent more. The voice that reminds me that time is passing, that asks if I’ll ever make any use of it. The voice that questions if I’m capable of understanding love, that says I am a burden to those in my life who try to provide it.

The voice that tells me to drink in order to make it stop.

Perhaps it’s best that I don’t have much of a memory left — less ammo for the voice.

I was always terrified of sharing these thoughts aloud but I’ve come to realize I am far from the only one dealing with it. I have no idea if it is a majority of us tragically self-aware apes, but I know it’s a lot.

I envy the strength of those who have suffered far worse than me and still persevere. Who rise out of deplorable conditions and not only survive, but grow. Who have been handed a crap hand but still keep their head up and play.

By all accounts, I was handed a very solid hand — I’m just shit at poker.

Undiagnosed ADHD didn’t help, mind you, but I won’t use that as a silver bullet to explain away my past mistakes and failings.

Silver bullets and silver tongues.

Are most people this cheerful on their birthday?

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say, “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads and say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day…

I am only 26 yet I have felt as though I’ve been living on borrowed time since I was 18. I’ve already recalled my closest brush with death (so far) that occurred at that wonderful, youthful age. Coming that close to buying the barn can shake the hell out of a man, make him rethink the path he’s on and change his way of living.

I opted to keep drinking. Now, there’s a white patch on my tongue.

Another song has randomly come to mind:

You’d better change the way you’re living,
And if that ain’t enough,
You’d better change the way you straight your stuff
’Cause nobody wants you when you’re old and grey,
You’d better change your way today,
You’d better change your way…

It took a while but I did manage to kick the booze. Do I fantasize about drinking it every day still? Yes, but I also fantasize about fleeing society and living my days out on the beach of an uninhabited tropical island (preferably one with ample access to molasses and a distillery).

In short, and with a desire to not leave you depressed, it is possible to better ourselves, even when that voice tries to make you feel as though it isn’t worth it.

For all my failings and mistakes in the world of romance, there are an equal amount of beautiful memories and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world — let alone those amazing individuals who have helped me grow and become (slowly but surely) a better man.

For all my insecurities and fears, there are friends and family who I love dearly and I know will stick with me till the end — whenever that may be.

I have a genuine belief that for every valley there is a mountain to accompany it. This year, though difficult, serves as a reminder that even at my lowest, I have friends and family that care. That feeling alone is what gets me through this insanity, day by day.

Hopefully, someday, I’ll have a better understanding as to the point of it all. Wishful thinking?

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all.

Myself, enjoying a pint of alcohol-free Guinness 0 on St. Patrick’s Day–2022

Damn these doctors for being kind enough to check that white patch and possibly save my life — I would not wish stitches in the tongue on my worst enemy. The real agony is waiting for the call, I still have about 3 days to go until I hear back.

It would be very funny if the thing that does me in is what actually got me this far in the first place — the best part of being Irish is that gallows humor is more or less ingrained into us.

On this lovely Valentine’s Day, I’ll end with a thank you to all of the amazing, wonderful, and caring people I am beyond lucky to have in my life, and an Irish joke to tide you over until next time.

“A man from Cork was in with his doctor. ‘Look, David. I’ve some bad news and some terrible news for you.’

‘God. What’s the bad news?!’, asked the patient. ‘Well’, replied the doctor, ‘You only have 3 days to live’.

‘You’re joking’ says the patient. ‘How on earth can the news get any worse’. ‘Well’, says the doctor, ‘I’ve been trying to get hold of you for the past 2 days’.”




D. R.

Agitator, banned-book list hopeful, failed-politician, suit-wearer, soul music-fanatic.