Today I list the things I can’t possibly know (because I’m too young), the hurts I can’t possibly understand (because my heart’s too smooth and unwrinkled), the fear I can’t possibly remember (because my brain has never been pricked by the static of lightning in the dark). I am terrified of the meaning beneath the still surface of the lake that is my words. How often do I bobble up above like a rubber-ducky in the afternoon sunlight, a lazy breeze tickling my skin as the water droplets evaporate from my face? But down beneath, an eel lurks and settles into the murky sand. A flashing pair of eyes recedes into some hidden hole beneath a rock. The sun is forgotten. No thesaurus is tucked away neatly on a library shelf. Not now. Not here. Truth can be a dark, sinister old hermit. I feel I know it too well.
I asked myself yesterday if I’d be joining myself today—up top, in that sparkly, golden light. And I hesitated, if only for a moment. You see, I knew that I could easily persuade myself to believe in that fair and breezy rendezvous of bobbing rubber-duckies, but the truth was bubbling up for oxygen at that very moment, and I hesitated because I knew that if I opened my mouth too quickly it would make an unwanted sound. But all was well, as it quickly sank down again.
I once felt pained when a woman spoke of the elderly who live in “homes.” My heart seized up sharply, filling my thoughts with the claustrophobia of a lunchroom clamored with noisy school-children and one child sitting all alone in the midst of them, an undisturbed spoon resting beside her pale green lunch tray.
Who teaches a child to hate? I brandish a scar beneath my clothing of a lash-mark to my unshaken security in a home where children slumbered or whispered happy secrets when they should have been sleeping. But some nights they shivered and turned their faces into their pillows, slashing the happiness from their secrets.
I loved a boy, once, so desperately that it severed my heartstrings from reality, and I woke up empty. He never said goodbye.
There is a box of letters high up on a shelf in my closet. Though I haven’t checked lately, I’m sure it is still covered with chalky dust. On some forgotten, lonely night a time ago, I sat on the floor with the contents of the box spread out all around me, and I wept, smoothing the wrinkles of the yellowed letters with my shaking hands.
I learned the rhythm, as a child, of two hearts pulsing in time, one young and vulnerable, one almost-not-as-young and vulnerable—a rhythm not of fantasies and shivering fingertips, but of two spirits embracing like mother and child, though both infants. When he stepped back from me for the last time, the reservoir in my chambered heart broke through and spilled over the wall. That bird lifted off and flew away. And I knew I’d never recover.
But fortunately, I am safe from the danger in these things. I realize that I could not possibly know any of them: I’m much too simple—and young. And so I’ll go back to my happy nothings, straightening and polishing the pretty figures on the shelf beneath my contented portraits. You’re welcome to come and pay me a visit. Just make sure to knock first.