Sunday, May 6, 2012

More from "Threads"

"I'm not ready. I don't even know what I would write," I said in a plaintive tone that another ear might hear as whining. 

She stepped closer to my hospital bed until she was standing directly over me. I could smell the faint remains of her familiar perfume and see the tiny lines I had never noticed before on the edge of each eye. She smiled and the creases around her mouth showed, too; how did she get so old, I wondered. But then chuckled internally with my next thought: we are the same age. 

"Rachel," she said in her firmest voice, her blue-grey eyes looking deep into mine, maybe even beyond. "The words are inside of you. You and I both know that. You were born with them in there. In fact there are so many words, spoken and written, unspoken and unwritten, inside of you, that many of them have joined together to form phrases and sentences that aren't even true. Those phrases and sentences have linked up to make stories that are absolute and total lies. And those are the words you read to yourself over and over, as if they were some kind of sacred text. They've become more real than your actual experiences."

My eyes filled; she was right. She reached forward and gently wiped away one of the runaway tears that escaped from the corner of my right eye.

"Rachel, you who could have, and still can, take charge of all the words inside of you and create meaning with them ... none of that bullshit you've been listening to all these years, but true, real meaning. And you could use those words to  tell stories that are not only true but, when they are read by others, will change both the reader and the writer forever."

I looked away, really crying now. The corner of sky I could see through the hospital window was blue and bright. It was a beautiful day out there and I could picture people walking in parks, playing with kids in yards, lying in a hammock and reading, working hard at their jobs, kissing their lovers, whispering with those they love about the dreams they have for the future.

"I don't have anything to say to them anymore. We both know that. Look at me," I sobbed.

"I didn't said it was going to be easy, Sweets," she said, kindness mixing with sternness in her face. "It's going to mean a bit of a battle, Rach. While you've been lying here, and well before that, even more of those words inside of you formed themselves into new and even more untrue, even more destructive, sentences and stories. And these stories have become veritable chains. They chain your arms to this bed. They wrapped themselves tightly around your heart so that sometimes even breathing hurts, let alone feeling. They've wrapped themselves in tight coils around your mind, giving you the illusory feeling that your talent, your sharp intellect and your grasp of the truth of what it means to be human, are gone."

I nodded, tears flowing down my cheeks, sobs shaking me. She was right; it felt just like that. I had forgotten she could see straight into me and the relief of hearing her say what she saw there. And loving me even more, somehow, because of it. I had felt an almost-blank toward her for weeks now, but I could feel the old movement inside of me, in spite of the drugs that were pumping into my veins through the cords overhead. This was why I fell in love with her in the first place.

She got down on her knees beside the bed so her face was only inches from mine. She reached up and tenderly wiped my tears away with a hankie I knew she'd embroidered herself. She looked me in the eyes again as she smoothed my hair away from face, just the way my mother used to do.

"Rachel," she whispered, a fierceness in her quiet tone that was repeated in her eyes. "Thats why it's going to be a battle. Those strings of words, those sentences and phrases that are paralyzing you right now must be read aloud, even cried over until they are meaningless and have lost their power to define you. Then they can be discarded."

Her voice changed a little and there was a slight smile at the corners of her mouth.  "And then, Sweet Girl, you will find that deep inside you are new words. Fresh words. Buckets and buckets of them for you to sift through to find the perfect ones with which to tell YOUR story, the truth, the one that you and I both know will heal and restore. Not just you, but me, and everyone else who reads them."

I looked back outside and the familiar panic and overwhlem filled me. This was what got me here in the first place. How could I do anything but react to all of what I would find out there in the real world? I'd have to have a kind of strength and energy I don't feel and that I haven't felt in such a long time that I've forgotten what it feels like to feel capable, at ease, confident. Normal.

"I don't know where to start," I said looking back at her, my voice shaking. "Just thinking about it makes me want to lay back down and call the nurse to give me something so that I won't feel for awhile."

She nodded. "I know."

She pulled herself up from her knees by grabbing onto the bed bar and stood over me. She stroked my cheek with her hand and tucked my hair behind my ear. I could see love on her face and feel it in her touch, but I felt almost angry thinking about it.

"Why do you love me?" I demanded.

She looked at me. She laughed.

"Rachel, I don't know how to not love you. I know you don't feel like a whole person right now. But you ARE. I can see the whole of you, even when you can only feel this painful, lost part. It's like one of those novels you are going to write. You are living in a chapter that tells the story of the main character's 'bottom,' when all is dark and hopeless. You, like the character, don't know that the next chapter in the book is when the sun breaks through the clouds, the storm breaks, the insight comes, the love story begins or the thing that was so very dead raises its head to show it is still alive."

I was listening now. "Story arc," I said. "That's called the story arc."

She rolled her eyes. "O.k. smarty-pants. The story arc is what I can see. I can see the whole thing. No, I don't know what happens next, but I know who YOU are, and I know, as you have told me many times while expounding on good fiction and Stephen King, the plot happens because of who the character is."

I nodded.

"So," she continued, "I know you. I know the main character and I know that the plot that will happen because of WHO YOU ARE is going to be something breathtakingly beautiful that will change the world. You've already changed me. The story isn't even close to over, Beautiful Rachel. And I'm going to walk through as much of that story with you as you will allow me to."

She leaned in and kissed me on the forehead. Impulsively, I wrapped my arms around her neck. I felt a corner of hope.

"But how ... " I started to ask, and then left it hanging. I didn't even know how to imagine what was next. Another dose of pills, maybe. Sleep. But that part of me that was beginning to hope had just a little bit of energy behind it.

She smiled. "Now there's my girl."

She picked up a familiar black case that I recognized immediately as my laptop case. I immediately felt panic kick in.

"No way," I whispered. "Not yet. I can't."

She unzipped the case and sat down in the chair next to my bed.

"Rachel, you don't even have to touch it yet. You don't have to do anything. I am going to start. I will type until you are ready to take over. I know you don't know what to write. But that's o.k. I'm going to help you. We, together, are going to write down the stories. At first it will be those bad ones you've been telling yourself, me and everyone else. The painful stories. The horrifying stories. The story of how you got here. Then it will be the stories you haven't even told me. The ones you haven't even dared to let yourself hear, but that are inside of you. You and I are going to write all that pain. All that rejection. All the abandonment. All the violence. All the stolen innocence. All the fears. All the guilt and shame. ALL OF IT."

She looked at me with a look I knew well. The look I'd seen when she'd told me she loved me and wanted to never leave my side for the foreseeable future. It was the look that meant she'd decided. It was the look that meant nothing and no one could change her mind.

"Then what?" I asked. "What happens after that?"

She smiled. "I don't know, doll. But those stories will be outside of you. We don't have to show them to anyone else unless you want to. But they will be outside of you. You will know that someone else besides you understands what you have been through, what you have felt. You will know that I don't just love the parts of you that you've shown me or that I've discovered, but every single tiny piece of you."

I think my face betrayed the anxiety that gave me. This was in many ways my deepest fears. That if, when I showed someone else the entirety of myself, they would ultimately reject me. I had been through enough with her to know she could handle a lot. I mean, God, she was here in front of me, loving me at my weakest point to date. But it still sounded terrifying.

"Rachel, I know that's scary. But you can do it. You've done hard things before. I know you can do it. And when you find yourself at a road block, I will lift you over. We are going to do this together. We are going to do what you, my sweet little writer girl, MUST do, in order to heal, to move through and over the past. We are going to write until there is nothing left inside of you to write. And then..."

It was her turn to get a little teary. I grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight.

"Then," she said, through her tears, a smile on her face, "you will be able to write what you were born to write, what you've been longing to write for your whole life and what the world has been waiting for you to write, even if they don't know it. You and I both know that that is who you are."

I swallowed a sob. She was right, of course; even I knew that somewhere deep down under the pain. But would I have remembered without her help? I didn't know. How could she love me so much? The weight of the gift of that quickened something deep inside of my chest, like a tiny ache between my ribs, but far inside. It felt like something that had been locked up tight or frozen solid had been popped open or come to life. It almost hurt. But not in a way I wanted to resist. Couldn't resist. It felt like an opening up and surge of energy through something in the very core of me.

I recognized this energy: it was love energy, the kind that used to fill me as I, without even meaning to, would rush toward her almost involuntarily. The same kind that would overwhelm me until I rushed to the computer and then let what was inside burst out of my fingers and onto the page.

I looked at her in wonder. "I can't love unless I write. And I can't write unless I love."

She smiled and this time her whole body seemed to smile.

"I know," she whispered as she pulled my head toward her chest. "I know."

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