I wish I wrote the way I read: unforgivingly, relentlessly, visibly. I trace my fingers over letters, mouth the words, gasp and cry. I slam books shut in a way that only other readers understand. A slow, two-handed slam where the letters press together hard enough to send a poof of scented air toward my face. It smells like the story, aged and fantastical, and I always open the book again. I’m stained, you see, and stains return to stain.
I’ve told a thousand stories to myself the last ten days, some to soothe, some to repeatedly and achingly wake me from peaceful slumber. Those stories don’t stain my conscious mind, just my dreaming one. I am forgiving and clumsy in the way I tell tale. I am invisible in the way I write. The ink is scrawled on the inner linings of my heart and you can only read it when life gives me lemons. The juice spills over me and suddenly I can read my story and oh how I read.
I read voraciously, unforgivingly, relentlessly, visibly, and my story stains me twice. I slam the book and it wakes me from my nightmares,
scenting my day with lemon and a copper that could be blood.
There’s a lifetime in that burst, and every story is all mixed together. A younger version of me picked a basket of lemons from below a tree, and washed them in well water. My hands gently pressed over the rind, rubbing the dirt from the pores. I had perfect balance in this effort, they didn’t slip or bruise. I have good hands for some things. Later, I would ask my big sister to sort them, and my little brother to free them of leaves. Later I would watch my big brother slice them with cool efficiency, and watch my baby brother and baby sister squeeze them into a bowl for him with more enthusiasm than a human body should be able to hold. My hands weren’t right for the other parts of the process. My hands aren’t artistic, aggressive, or discerning, but they washed that lemon well, and they loved that lemon as it was.
In that moment, I felt as if everything was right with the world. It seemed as if the right things for me might just simply fall from trees, land at my feet, and guide my path. My hands felt capable– fearfully and wonderfully made.
I laughed into that well, the happiness of it shaking like pennies into its pit, and maybe it was a wishing well, and maybe my laugh sounded like a heart-born plea for more because I’ve certainly had my share of lemons.
I’d like to think I still hold them well. I’d like to think they are given to me because my hands were made to hold them.
It is a story I tell myself, just another I write with invisible ink, just another dream I write with forgiveness.
I wish I could write that tale more boldly, the way I read. I wish I could give you the sentences that wake me up, every 10 minutes, every 5, every 25, but who’s counting.
I wish I could make pages of words you could slam together, the way readers like me do. It would poof towards you then, and you’d scent my quietest tales. The ones that smell like copper, like wishing-well pennies, like blood. The ones that smell like a lifetime of lemons, and the miracle of a thousand perfectly-made hands.
But then you’d be a little stained by the stories that wake me, and the lemon juice might make visible your secret stories, and your senses might stop being able to tell the difference between wishes and bloodshed, too.
It all smells like copper eventually, all of it. The dreams, the nightmares, and even, mysteriously, the lemons.