The Words

July 14, 2014 § 2 Comments

Some days she can feel the words fluttering in the dimness of her belly, and squeezing through her limbs like tiny snakes – they are hot and anxious, confused by their entrapment. They whisper to her in the darkness, begging to be released, and she begins to sleep with earphones in and the music turned up. Loud. The resulting din resembles the white noise of between-ness, neither one thing nor another, and she can tune it out if she tries hard enough. Their hazy twists and turns in the small hours might almost be considered comforting, she thinks. She wraps her arms around herself – around them – and dozes.

One day, later, she discovers that writing implements soothe them for a time, when she cannot stand the loud music for another second. She begins to carry a pen around with her, and it works for a little while – they still themselves, they align, and she feels a sort of elation at the result. They are ordered and ready and the silence and stillness are luxurious. She feels a glow of potential and looks at herself in the mirror, stares at herself, loses track of time, fancies that she can see the words in their neat lines burning through her skin.

It doesn’t last. They soon slip out of their sentences and paragraphs and begin their twisting frenzy again – rapid and desperate and bruising her in their panic. The cage of her bones becomes chipped; her organs swell like overripe fruit; her skin bleeds from the inside. She feels like a woman giving birth in slow motion. The life that she carries inside of her is so achingly ready, and the inexorable march towards fruition has been set in motion. She is pulling the moon from the sky to stop the tides; she is aligning the earth’s plates and hoping that they never shift again. She feels helpless and out of control as she covers her bruises with bandages, buys clothing to hide her flesh, and fights the urge to double over and sob from the pain of it all. She doesn’t sleep much – the music cannot go loud enough to drown out their urgent pleas.

In a desperate attempt to recreate the fleeting effect of the pen, she buys writing implements by the dozen – pens, pencils, anything that could be used to make a mark on a page. She wears them in her pockets, behind her ears, twined through her hair like wild decorations. She hooks them into her cuffs and the waistband of her skirts. She is covered in ink spots and pencil scratches – everywhere but the pristine skin of her hands. The words are confused; some slow and gather, others ricochet in terror. They clot inside of her, creating a new sort of topography that she cannot comprehend. It is enough, she thinks, that some of them are calmer. She can sleep a little again; the pain is not as bad all the time. A half life is probably better than no life at all, she muses, weighing her options.

It goes on like this for a time – her mad collection of pens and pencils worn like armour, while the words pause and flow and beat their confusion against her. The bleeding under her skin does not stop, but it does become a little less. She manages an hour or two of sleep at night, enough to get by with, and life drags on.

On a particularly bad day, one on which the words are stubborn and violent and she feels she might faint from the endless motion and the ragged pain, she boards a bus. She hopes that the scenery will calm them; that the movement of the wheels will lull them. She wants to be out in the world and feel the soft rain and smell the rich, damp air. She is as desperate as they are; she has begun to think of an end.

She does not remember how long she has been on the bus before he steps on. She can only acknowledge the sudden, rapid, longing rushes of the words as she sees him for the first time – the boy that wears paintbrushes like armour. The flash of recognition in his green eyes mirrors the one in hers, she is certain. He stumbles to the open seat next to her, his jaw set grimly against the pain. The bruises she can see are the deepest purple-black she could ever imagine, and they swirl and spread like nebulas. They are beautiful on him – she is transfixed. He stares at her through unkempt curls, and the words quieten gloriously. She takes the first deep breath she has managed in longer than she can remember, and when he pulls out the sketchpad, white like a second chance, she reaches out to help cradle it across their laps.

The bus may as well be empty. The rainwater in his hair baptises her hands as he leans towards her and slides the pen out from behind her ear, offering it to her like a jewel.

She feels the delicious vibration of the words, hot and infinitely ready.

“Write,” he says.

She does.


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