“Y’all should write a book,” he says.
I laugh. “In five or ten years, maybe.”
In mathematics, we have equivalency theorems, a series of statements that make the same basic claim in different ways. Depending on what you’re trying to prove, one statement might be more useful than another, and so we all spend the time proving why statement (a) is equivalent to (b) is equivalent to (c) and so forth, and then we can use the equivalency to piggyback new proofs and theorems and congratulate ourselves on finding something profound that is truly just redundancy rewrapped.
I feel like I have something similar for my writing that goes like this:
(a) Writing is how I enter the world.
(b) Most of what I write is bullshit.
(c) I only know how to write my truth.
(d) Vulnerability is terrifying.
Writing is how I enter the world => Most of what I write is bullshit.
I live in retrospectives and projections. I exist in movement. Standing still is foreign soil, and I haven’t got my feet yet. Writing is how I enter the world. It’s the doorway I’ve found to experience. Something isn’t real until it’s committed to language. There is something concrete about language, searching for a word, structuring an experience, that commits it to memory better. Perhaps it’s the act of living and reliving in searching for adjectives and synonyms and metaphors (and pataphors). Finding a common thread and weaving it through a narrative. Creating meaning and beauty from a collection of mismatched photographs and snapshots.
Or perhaps it’s simply having it written down, to revisit when memory begins to fade.
Spoiler alert #1: there is no meaning here. Or if there is, we don’t have time for objectivity. The meaning is, we are all broken (but then again, so is stained glass). Or perhaps the meaning is, we lead each other to temptation (but it’s delicious, like pulling the nectar from honeysuckle and worth every drop of sin). Or perhaps the meaning is, there is no meaning. We can pat ourselves on the back for that metaphysical conclusion, chalk ourselves up to the level of Great Thinker, and throw one or two back in the spirit of true nihilism.
Spoiler alert #2: there is nothing here to hear. How do we learn to hold the quiet when our hearts beat so furiously in our eardrums?
I write truth without context. I take snapshots and string them together, unfinished lines of polaroids hanging zigzagged along the wall. I have pieces I will never finish with the best of intentions. I have polished pieces I will never post because they show too much. I tell the truth I want to tell, and it’s usually one that’s buffered with time.
Conclusion: most of what I write is bullshit.
Most of what I write is bullshit => I only know how to tell my truth.
I write what I know, and I don’t know much. I know that vulnerability feels like a phoenix, painful, glorious, and leaves me shaking like a small bird that can’t figure out how to work its wings or feet, let alone hold a flame. I know that I write what feels safe, and what feels safe to me is raw to others, but if it helps, then I am happy to write until my fingers bleed.
But I would bend over a keyboard and write, stream of consciousness, while someone fucked me if it meant they didn’t watch my eyes. My eyes cannot decide if they want to blend or not, so some days they are green, and others they are blue-and-gold. I imagine my pupils magnetizing, siphoning out the gold flecks and clumping them together. Regardless, they tell- they have always told- too much, and simultaneously, not nearly enough.
You should know: that picture was always meant for you, your name and face behind the intensity they say they can’t read in my eyes. I have enough courage to exist to strangers in a way I do not have the courage to exist to you.
I write what I know and couch it in plausible deniability, generalize it enough to be relevant, distance it enough to be safe. My therapist calls me on every rationalization now, because I would rather intellectualize emotion than experience it. If I can’t push back, I’m wasting my time, but he says I should learn to sit with emotion, experience it, name it.
If I ever write a book, it will be titled Emotion in Retrospect.
Alternatively, it might just be called Context.
Conclusion: I only know how to tell my truth.
I only know how to tell my truth => Vulnerability is terrifying
I want to know what is not said simply because I know there are always things unsaid. If I do it, others must; when you cop to it, I imagine layers upon layers missing from the words. I want to hear what is intended, not recreate words into my own meaning. But that is all words are: every definition is, to some degree, subjective. Definition essays are insanity, a way for struggling undergraduates to grasp the concepts of abstraction without straying too far from the point.
And the point is what? To understand that words are limited? Of course they are. Majority of our conversation cues are non-verbal: arms folded or relaxed, eyes strayed or focused. Do we nod at the appropriate time or at a time that feels jarring, like we are trying to break the flow of conversation to interject with our own epiphanies? My words are subject to the definitions I have ascribed to them; nothing I say is universal or even, necessarily, capable of being understood- not because I am so cryptic or clever, but because words are based in experiential knowledge, and I do not know where you come from.
It’s as good a mask as any, one that allows the freedom for social experimentation. How vague can I be and still you find meaning? What I am thinking about while writing this is vast: conversation on porches and the meaning of “tempt.” What it means when sight is limited, and how we might come to find one another in a crowded room when only one of us has a frame of reference. Erotica that will vanish into the Not For Public Consumption folder, and never acknowledged again. How his hand felt on my shoulder, and what I would have offered if I understood how to offer in the moment and not in retrospect, and how to want before I know I have permission.
Conclusion: Vulnerability is terrifying.
Vulnerability is terrifying => Writing is how I enter the world
So distance is how I claim vulnerability. It’s relative, of course: the axis of time and space provide the context but my stories are strewn across the ears of fifteen different people. You see that I want, and you see that I crave, and you see that I am uncertain about either of these things, and you, you see nothing at all because that is all I am willing to show you. I show you what has already been completed, never what is in progress. Shake my hand on the left, not out of insult, but because it’s unexpected. Shoot lightning bolts with language; you have my consent. You shifts, based on context. If I say you, then it’s universal and only one person knows this piece of the puzzle that I have buried so deep, it would take obsession to find.
Still, the puzzle is seen, even if the fragments show. Failed experiments still teach us something, even if the something is what is found in negation. We structure and craft, construct and construe meaning in retrospect. It is in reflection that we find an image; we do not see ourselves until we look in the mirror.
My mirror is more black-and-white that I will ever be. I shade in redefinition, create the illusion of depth through reconfiguring the lines. Brown-to-black meet green-to-gold. I never thought I would stand eye-to-eye here; a part of me wonders if I’m out of my depth.
But that’s insecurity talking, because I know the shape and taste of these waters. I have swum here since muscle memory taught me how to guide a pencil, but it’s been years since the current pushed back. I am relearning resistance.
Conclusion: Writing is how I enter the world.
Quod Erat Demonstrandum
(*) In math, => is used to signify implication; e.g. (a) implies (b) is denoted (a) => (b)