A word is dead
When it is said,
I say it just
Begins to live
– Emily Dickinson (“A Word is Dead”)
Don’t say it, you beg him, but silently. In your head you are having one conversation, with him you are having another. The words hover in between, the air is charged and if you strain you swear you can see the molecules collecting and moving, the atoms bouncing wildly off of what is left unsaid. If he says it, out loud, it is done. It is real.
It is already real, of course. You know this, already, by your intuition, by the way that something in your chest feels heavier than the rest of you. It is as if there is a impish being that sits in the space between your heart and your rib cage, crammed into that hollow space that was waiting for it, swinging its feet and licking a lollipop. Swallowing every full glance and misunderstood word, every story that is not quite right, every way he averts his eyes when you ask him that question. She collects them all, gleefully, until she is too full and something must be done.
So we have the words. And yes, you already know it is broken. But before the words are actually spoken and given life, there is still us. When he says that word, when he breathes out yes, it is done. What was youandme is now you. And me. Because these words have the power to dismantle things. He says, yes, it’s true, and you think, now I have to lose you. The imp inside you has long ago tossed aside her lollipop, and is hunched over with the weight of what she is carrying. She has to let it go, and it slides out of you, and you think, I am coming undone.
Waiting for a phone to ring when you expect bad news. You pick up the phone. You should feel terror, anxiety. You should be nervous. But you are not. You simply do what is expected. Sit up. Lift the phone. Look at the number, a doctor’s office. Think you should say a prayer but you don’t. The prayers have already been said. You consider letting it go to voice mail, but then whatever is to be said will be recorded. Longer lasting. A human voice that disappears is better. Click yes, I will accept this call. You say hello. A man, a kind man, says something like “Well, there’s big trouble in little China”. Or he says “Is your husband with you?” Or he clears his throat, stepping up to the platform, ready to dive in. That’s all you need to hear. You don’t need the words, the actual words to confirm what you already know. But he says them anyways. And you think, five minutes ago, this wasn’t true. Five minutes ago, I didn’t know, not for sure.
The real shock doesn’t come when you are waiting for the phone call. The real shock happens when you are thinking about if you can make that trip to Belize in your condition, if you should ask the doctor. Or you are thinking about a party that is happening that weekend, and if you should wear your black skirt or your leather pants. Or maybe you’re thinking about the way the doctor’s nose hair seems abnormally long for someone that spends a lot of time looking down at a person. Whatever you are thinking, it is not about the thing that is about to change your life. I wonder, do the doctors ever hesitate, knowing that when they speak, your life gets split in two? Before and after? Do they want to wait, to let you live in your before world for just a moment longer? Because these words, they have the power to destroy. A dream of something. A person you used to be. A life you thought was about to be.
He says “I do”. The sun is dappling, actually dappling through the trees. You feel beautiful and your dress is right. The flowers dangle from the trees and you somehow know enough to look up, to really take it in, to not let it all fly by too quickly. You thought about the dress and the flowers and the risotto and the duck quesadilla appetizers, and the poem to be read, and the song to be danced to. You thought of it all. But you did not think of the vows much, the classic words that you chose. You wanted the tradition, of course, but expected the words to float by you in that way that all big moments seem to float. It is only later that you can take in the big moments. But this, you did not expect. When he said “I do”. When you said “I do” and meant it. At that moment you feel as tall and rooted into the earth as the massive oak tree you are standing under. Everything that has come before and everything that will come after is exactly turning on this moment. The balance is whisper-perfect, and just as delicate. Yes, this man, this moment, these words. I do, I do, I do. They fill you up, inside a raw place that has been empty until now, a small hollowed out hiding place below your heart and above your ribs. The words fill that spot and keep flowing, overflowing actually, The words tumble out of your mouth, and they are alive, doing cartwheels over each other, spilling out over your dress and down your toes and into the damp grass, below the dirt and into the roots of the trees, where they keep flowing, out into the river that winks at you from beyond the trees. You think, you are done. These words, these words have the power to build things.
I’m joining the lovely sisters at Momalom for Five for Five this week, taking part in a blogging challenge. Check out the other amazing posts inspired by these women.
Today’s post on WORDS is also coming to you from Just Write, a free writing exercise hosted by the extraordinary Heather of the EO.