SHE HIDES BEHIND WORDS…
She hides behind words like most people hide behind walls. She collects words like old people gather spoons. Catching them, one, sometimes two, at a time, she arranges them so they have some sort of semblance. She fastens them to the page, gently but firmly, so they cannot escape. And if they begin to say too much, to tell the stories she cannot bear to see, she pulls them apart until it’s no longer the case.
She has learned how to pull a letter’s leg, how to push two letters, or parts, or words together. She has learned how to disorder them when necessary, so a new order, an order she can accept, can form on the page. This, she believes, is the only way forwards.
By the time she was 22, her words had begun to overflow. She had been cramming them into cups and cupboards and clothing pockets for so long, that there was little room left to hide them.
The words began to flow into the house and into their life. At night, she would lie awake trying to ingest the words that lay on the bed between her and her boyfriend, but it was too much. The words were multiplying and she could not eat them faster than they were reproducing.
One morning in late July, the pair woke gasping for air. During the night, the words had gathered together, pulling themselves out of the cups and cupboards and clothing pockets, and taken over the house. They had arranged themselves in a series of stories. Across the ceiling, around the walls, tangled through her hair, the words all screamed the same story: we have had enough, we want out, we want freedom, and we want to be heard. The girl was in tears. It was simply too much.
The boy rose out of bed and did the only thing he could think of. He went downstairs, into the garage, and began to clear the cobwebs. Beneath the staircase, hidden from view, he gathered a hammer, several nails, and old bits of plaster and wood and fibreglass. The words will haunt you no more, he called to his girlfriend upstairs.
All day, he worked away at his task. By dusk, he had erected four walls, a lockable door, and a desk in one corner, overlooking the valley. He even built a cupboard, with three shelves and many hooks on which she could hang her words.
When he had finished, he walked upstairs to find his girlfriend, calling her name as he went. When he reached the top of the stairs, he had still not heard a response. The house had filled up even more by now. The words, which were waist high when he had got out of bed that morning, were now reaching his neck. He had to use all his strength to wade through the words, looking for his girlfriend.
When he had been calling to her for several minutes and still not heard a response, he began to worry. He remembered what the girl’s mother had told them many months before: If you try to keep them all, and collect every word and every sentence, and not give them the freedom they desire, they will weigh you down. The young couple had laughed at the older woman’s words. What did she know? She didn’t collect anything.
When the boy had looked in every room of the house, and still not seen his girlfriend, he began to dig a little deeper. He found stories of clouds pregnant with rain, stories of mountains covered in thick forestry, stories of overflowing lap pools and broken railways. But still, he could not find his girlfriend.
When the boy had exhausted himself looking for her face, he did the only thing he could think of; he opened all the windows, all the doors, all the drains, and let the words begin to walk away. He watched the sentences crawl through the windows, and waved the paragraphs goodbye as they marched out the doors. As the sun began to set, the words finally began to drain closer and closer to the boy’s ankles. And not long after that, even the words at his feet got up and left the house.
And that is when he saw her. Lying on her back, her head was hanging to one side, her mouth full of words. Trapped under her body, several sentences were still trying to escape.
First published in ZineWest 2013