A truth should exist,
it should not be used
If I love you
is that a fact or a weapon?
— Margaret Atwood
I find it difficult to write lately, despite having a lot to convey. This happens from time to time, I shouldn’t even be taken aback anymore. For a moment I thought I’d at last settle into my writing voice …only to lose it the same moment I noticed its snug fit. I sense that I write myself differently these days and that troubles me.
There’s so much to say (so much to say), so much ground to cover (so much ground to cover), so many stories to unearth and record (so many stories). Sometimes my mind really does feel like a library of unshelved thoughts where memories are my leather-bound, hand-stitched and ink-stained books. Rows and rows of them, arranged by year then by seasons followed by months with visible bookmarks carefully placed between folded pages, noting special appearances and visits.
I want to write about the purple sky I saw the other evening while on an unplanned stroll on campus. Her last day here, our last evening together and 2014’s last sunset. How she first looked at me then that purple hue, and as she took in the buildings surrounding us – remembering exactly where we were – at last she turned to me and said, “In whatever language that you use to express gratitude, say it a thousand more times for the opportunity to be here.” We were silent for a second before I broke it by uttering the word out loud; Alhamdulillah.
I want to write about that evening, that particular sunset, that particular company – how, while it is true my heart may have swelled a thousand times in the past at different moments with different friends, the clarity of this moment is brand-new. At that particular moment, I thought I could literally touch happiness.
Shall I first rewind to our second evening, in a Japanese restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown, a random pick, where I deliberated for a split second to ‘fess up or not? A brief pause followed by, “I haven’t told another friend this [story] in so many years.” Another pause for dramatic effect or maybe just a lousy attempt to mask regret. Do I really want to spill? Is this necessary? “Even Housemate #1 doesn’t know – I just felt there was no need for her to know. But I… You. I think you’ll understand.” So despite the small voice protesting in my mind, I went ahead and opened the floodgates.
Truth: I’ve practiced this truth-telling so many times in my mind, meant for no one in particular.
This one wasn’t planned. I don’t even know why I decided to do so – of all times and people. It surprised me later on, when she reminded me that we’ve only been friends for three years – I swore it felt a lot longer than that. I don’t know why I told her. So heavy the burden and so unnecessary; whatever for? Why? What changes? I wasn’t even expecting anything. Neither a trade-in of truth-for-truth, nor was I looking for answers. Plus, contrary to popular belief, the truth doesn’t set me free. I don’t know why I decided to go forth with the tell-all, deliberating for only a split second, because after all, maybe we won’t see each other anymore. Forever is nonexistent, best friends the stuff of silly girlhood years. Maybe we won’t be friends anymore in a few years, you know? God knows where both of us will even be come this same time next year.
Was it necessary, the confession? No. Was it necessary, the backstory context? No.
Was it a leap of faith? Maybe, but I think not. Crazy as this sounds, I went ahead and ‘fessed up just because. Do I regret it? And here’s key: no. “I’m not ashamed anymore to talk about it,” I said, in the train on our way back later that night. “Because now that I’m about the age that things happened for them, how much do we know at this age? How much do we know, to predict the ripple of consequences? His mistake was his cowardice. I’m not excusing him from that because he paid the price for it and straddled us along with it, but sometimes bad things happen to good people. That’s it. It’s just life.”
Could I fast-forward the timeline to our second-to-last night? The third and last nighttime train that we boarded from the city to my current residence, another hour of yet another night that went by in a whiz. She’d asked some questions and I’d provided context, maybe more than I ought to. How far, how wide, how deep does one go when telling the truth? I’ve struggled for the past fifteen years to seal it, hiding and averting, only to give it away for free and uneventfully. The irony.
Shall I now wind the clock to that twenty-minute walk from the train station to my place where she opened up about her own childhood? As if an eye-for-an-eye; truth-for-truth. How she pieced together fragmented pieces of her stories to form a full image, just as I did two nights ago, and held back tears while doing so.
Shall I talk about this particular night, so terribly cold and strangely eerie, of two girls walking side-by-side, unbeknownst to them, forging a connection of a lifetime? Could I write about that split second when I heard her voice crack and realized, before I heard a sniff, that she had tears in her eyes? In that moment, I wanted to hold her. I wanted to say thank you; it wasn’t necessary to trade personal tragedies, as if keeping score. I wanted to say so many things, but I didn’t. Maybe this truth-telling was not even about me. I squeezed her shoulders briefly and wiped away my own tears.
What about the last night of her trip, of us sitting across from each other in my studio with a cup of coffee and teh tarik? How we laughed and sighed and fell into silence now and then. How we looked at each other square in the face, simultaneously vulnerable and grounded, as we shared our tales. Back and forth, questions and answers. Sometimes her random interjection of lame jokes took me by surprise; Third Sis pulls this often. In that moment – could I write about this? – I thought it felt like the truest kind of love, another sister from a different mother; we are now soul-friends.
I am ordinary, my life is even more, yet it never fails to take me by surprise. I say this often, too often; I’m not surprised if I’m perceived as exaggerating and overly emotional. I know I say it all the time, but I also know that I mean it each time:
My life is small, so ordinary, yet the discovery of the depth that I am loved takes me by surprise every single time. My self, hardly a star amid the dramatic backdrop of the vast universe – yet every now and then I would notice my reflection in the eyes of those who love me and it… I… glitter. They wrote me differently.
So I write, because I want to remember these moments. I want to honor their presence in my life, my way of saying thank you. Even if I write myself differently lately, even though it troubles me – I want to write anyway. Even if the words come out as fragmented pieces or shoddy, mediocre finished products – I want to write anyway.
I am awkward at holding people because affection for me, is more familiarly felt in the form of written words and heartfelt sentiments, rarely physical gestures. What I didn’t do that night as I held back my own tears, I want to make up through the medium that sustains my soul. I want to give you the highest honor: I write you in my heart.
I wrote you differently.
Not stereo loud, not humming,
or the sound of a feather falling, silent.
I wrote you when as a child I would look
for seashell fingertips of the ocean.
Borrowing, listening to parts of you
no one hears and falling for the waves
like heartbeats, I would say,
Let me steal you away.
Let me take you home with me.
— Kharla M. Brillo, Confession VI