“If the words you spoke appeared on your skin, would you still be beautiful?”
I am a wordsmith, the kind of artist that takes a word, values its meaning, its trueness, and its purpose with such delicacy that when combined with other truth-saying words, they become distinct expressions of a reality that cannot be undone or ignored. My words are like a surgeon’s scalpel that, when used with sensible precision, they can penetrate with the subtlety required to leave only a tiny mark (for scars can fade, but not be erased) and promote the healing powers of a gentle hand. But sometimes my words can be akin to a sledge hammer, recklessly slamming into relationships with such brutal force that they bludgeon through priceless, porcelain-doll friendships that could never be mended or replaced. There is no delicacy or healing in these words; only the destruction that follows the outpouring of untethered, raw emotions desperate to explode.
These crippling words are ever so often the ones that are seared upon people’s hearts like iron brands burnt into their souls, and no matter how sedulous my subsequent words may be, the apologies that spill like contrite balsam upon igneous resentment no longer carry healing in their expression, but pain and heartbreak. The once careful wordsmith has erred in the delivery of her message, and, hence, has lost her license to practice. So now, having hurt those whom she loves the most with the most savage weapon of her words, the ascetic artist stitches an ignoble letter A upon her unwelcoming bosom.
“Man is forced to suffer even after his sins are forgiven, though it was sin that brought down on him this penalty. For the punishment outlasts the guilt, lest the guilt should be thought slight if with its forgiveness the punishment also came to an end.” St. Augustine
I have learned in life that damaged people are more honest than those who have it all together, and there are people who’ve got it all together; I would know because I’m married to one. There have been very few times when I’ve felt like I had it “all together,” though the last time was actually quite recently, and when I began losing my grip on my brief togetherness, I desperately squeezed the little I could get out of it, and, like John Steinbeck’s Lennie, I killed it, quite unintentionally, then sadly waited for a loving friend to bravely shoot me out of my ingenuous misery.
No George Milton for me…
With death comes a different kind of life, an afterlife of sorts, where broken souls wander the shadowy halls of Purgatory trying to expiate the sins we have committed (or have yet to commit) but still failing to keep them under control. And so we digress into our tormented minds, spectral figures navigating in between realms, bone shards crunching beneath tentative steps, always yearning for purification in the purging fires of holiness that have become so intense we have, sadly, forgotten how to feel.
Photograph by Ryan Wycoff
Yellow is the color of mellow, or so I had always been told; kind of like a soothing misbelief that if I’m draped in the color of the sun, it’ll make me happy again and the darkness that is actually swelling from deep within like black ink blotting my skin will fade in the brightness of the yellow, sunshine bursting forth in full glory and vitality.
But I, in my congenital knowledge of melancholy, know better than to put my hopes in a color. Even as a little girl, I crayoned over the yellow coloring pages with black crayolas, painted over sun-kissed golden walls with blue tint, and refused to wear marigold to concessional Hispanic funerals. There were no dandelions in my hair; no pretty dresses decorated with primrose flora; no canary bed linen with matching amber curtains.
Black and blues for me.
But as the chapters in my life begin yellowing – my hair having lost its sprightly luster years ago, my eyes fracturing at their corners, my signature glower aging me with ruthless disregard – I realize that it had never been despondency that had kept me from delighting in the sunlight color, but fear of getting too close to the rays and having my wings melt under its capricious whims, for who am I if not a sullen romantic simply waiting to exhale.