The pattern: I remember the words that have been written and then imagine the words that have yet to be born onto paper.
The words yet to come inevitably feel enormous in the waiting. As each breath passes, my chest is heavier, made of denser stuff than bone. Someone has surgically switched out my bones for an iron breast plate; I can feel it grinding, pressing, squeezing.
It’s already hard to breathe; writing feels impossible. But the ache is still there, the ache is always there. It’s the quiet festering, it’s the bulb slowly forcing up through soil. Thick green sprouts will surely burst from my rib cage soon, poking between bones like fingers thrusting through prison bars.
It is an ache that burns worse when I am still; I understand why so many keep busy like compulsive liars. If the choreography becomes more frantic, more manic, the floor doesn’t turn to lava. If the floor doesn’t turn to lava, the acrobats don’t slip through.
This is an ache of an old family friend I’ve shared tea and scones with while discussing cello music and what it feels like to fall. It’s the itching skin of a former lover that pulled on my hair, jerking my head back as we wrestled to whisper pie recipes and names of crayon colors in my ear.
Timberwolf. One pound of blackberries. Grated lemon zest. Bittersweet. One cup of sugar. Jazzberry Jam.
The ache is a mute child that never learned to speak on her own, so she relies on me to communicate. Everything comes all at once, too much liquid down one plastic funnel and you wind up with milk all over your hands. What’s the best way to get all this across anyhow? Efficiently? Consistently? Creatively? With the stubs of crayons that have lost their wrappers scratched into newsprint or on plaster walls? It changes, as do the thoughts and the words. They build up and up and up like cardboard bricks until the only way out is pulling out a single brick and letting the whole tower wobble. Maybe the tower crumbles.
Then I’m left with a mute child and a toppled castle tower. And the ache.
Always the ache. It never, ever goes away. Writing doesn’t make it go away, neither does painting. All these things do is lubricate the iron breastplate; the machine moves more easily and stretches into the ache. Not to diminish, but to relish. The ache becomes a well worked muscle; vulnerable in the microfibers, but stronger as a whole.
Oh, if I could tell you all of the thoughts that have spun themselves into thread inside my chest. Soft thread, brittle thread, golden thread, invisible thread; I gather them into neat bundles and pass them to friends in the form of love and reminders. Often, that thread is all I am capable of giving. I reach out to you not because I demand something in return; I reach out because I ache and need to stretch towards something meaningful and beautiful. I reach out because otherwise I would be buried beneath the thought threads I create.
I am careful to whom I offer my bundles; they are often still attached to me, wrapped and knotted around my lungs and my throat or the connective tissue between my joints. If you pull too hard or I thrust too quickly I very well may bleed. If I take too long to offer, I may leave the pile of thread at an empty door, an unattended post. Some bundles people mistook for straw, or perhaps they saw something I did not wish to admit. I have not decided if these moments were my fault, or simply just were.
Winter symbolizes a turning inward. An eye swiveling back to inspect what beats underneath the flesh, or a hand pausing before it reaches out to offer another coil of thread. Have I felt frantic? I suppose I have, at times. This year has been full. Important people have died. Important people die every year, but this year was my family’s turn to feel that weight. My family and my friends; you lovelies know exactly who you are. It has been a very full year, has it not? I’ve begun to feel over extended, even as I feel isolated and wrapped up within my thoughts and feelings; I’d like to try a different approach.
I’d like to write you letters.
Will you take a letter?