She found her brother in the greenhouse.
“What are you doing out here?”
He lay on his back on the floor, staring up at the ceiling.
“I like it out here.”
She glanced around. “What’s to like?”
“I like plants. You know that.”
“There are no plants.”
This was true. They had all been cleared out several weeks ago.
“No,” he admitted. “But if you look straight up, sometimes you think you can almost see them out of the corner of your eye.”
She just stood there, staring down at him.
“You should try it,” he said.
“You should come inside.”
He didn’t move. “I am inside.”
“Inside the house.”
“People have been asking where you are.”
“You should come say hi.”
“I’d rather stay here.”
She stood for a moment, then sighed and unlatched the door. “Fine. Stay here with your imaginary plants.”
The door banged closed.
“They’re not imaginary,” he said to the ceiling. “They’re just not here anymore.”
When I sing to the night sky at the top of my lungs, can the stars hear me?
Are moon craters really the holes of giant lunar gophers?
Do trees consider being made into paper the highest honor?
Do books fall in love with their own stories?
Would my dog recognize me if I time traveled to ten years in the future?
Do clocks ever wish they could stop?
Does my reflection ever get bored of looking at me?
Will I ever know any of the answers?
I can’t tell you everything. No one can. This world was never meant to be put into simple words. You cannot summarize it. You cannot teach it. The only way to learn is to live. I give you only the few things I have gathered along the way in my life. Only the things which I see now belong to you. There are things which I cannot give you. You would never understand them; I understand them only through the lens of my own life.
I can’t take you there. I can only tell you to go. To listen. To trust and to leap and to let yourself fall. You have been told that falling is a bad thing. A sign of weakness maybe or of failure. Do not listen to the wisdom of the world. They advertise it in flashing lights and shout it from the rooftops over the busy streets True wisdom is quiet and yours alone. You cannot take the wisdom flung out to the masses. Only that which finds you alone in the silence.
To fall is not bad. It is like being lost. Terrifying, yes. But on the other side, when you find yourself on your feet again, you understand things you could never learn from mere words.
So when you hear it whisper in the silence, or feel it tugging gently at your heart, follow. Do not ask whether “this is it”. Do not ask where you are going.
Do not ask others if they feel it. All the world doesn’t find it at once.
When you feel it, it will be yours. So follow and see where it leads you.
I wish you the best in your life.
Sometimes I think I am forgetting how to breathe.
I’m still breathing. I haven’t forgotten so much that I’ve actually stopped, but I don’t breathe like I used to. I’m not quite sure what has changed or how to say it. That it has gotten harder to breathe? I suppose so. But not exactly. Every breath doesn’t take a conscious effort or anything like that. I don’t always notice how hard it is.
I think my breathing has gotten smaller. Maybe that is the difference. Every once in a while I suddenly become aware of the way I’m breathing, and realize that it’s only small wisps of air that I am taking in. My lungs don’t expand fully. When I don’t think about my breathing, I hardly breathe at all. No more than I have to. I’m just barely clinging to the air, not letting it fill me up. My lungs are always half empty.
When I do realize how I am breathing, I try to change it. I try to take deep breaths and let my lungs swell with oxygen. These breaths are deeper, but they’re still not normal. Not the way I used to breathe. I try to let each breath fill me up, but they never quite can. I can’t feel relaxed and breathe in as much as I should. Half way through inhaling I stop taking in air and just hold my breath without meaning to. I try to exhale slowly like I’ve been taught, but the moment I start to exhale, I need to breathe again.
Sometimes I think my lungs have shrunk or collapsed in on themselves.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t really breathe. Not enough.
But it always is enough. Maybe just barely, but it’s enough to keep me going. Enough to carry me to my next shallow breath.
Maybe someday I will wake up and the words will be there.
They will come easily. I will open my mouth and I will speak the things I see and feel and wish for.
My thoughts are loud whispers in my head. I do not know how to not hear them, but they are silent to the rest of the world.
Maybe someday my thoughts will learn how to reach my mouth. I will talk and people will hear. I will become audible.
Someday I will become used to the sound of my own voice.
But until then…
I will write.
A gap in the chain link fence serves as the gate to the park. Five swings hang slack from a sturdy metal pipe structure. The merry-go-round is on a slight slant. When it spins it scrapes gashes in a bald patch of ground. The slide is a long, narrow, metal chute, the sort that quickly gets too hot to touch when the sun comes out. The peak is scarily high. A large old tire, probably from a tractor, lies flat on the ground. Some attempt at a climbing structure, though the tall grass growing out of its center makes it look more like an oversized potted plant. Just on the other side of the chain link fence stands the water tower- its squashed gum drop of a body held up by six spindly legs. On top of the water tower is a star made of Christmas lights.
Outside the old gas station, a black tarp covers the ‘Gas’ sign. They don’t sell gas here anymore. The Marlboro sign beside it still stands uncovered, proud and self-satisfied. There are more signs lining the windows of the convenience store, advertising different brands of cigarettes and beer.
There’s another playground, a wooden structure with a faded green plastic slide. The blue and red and yellow paint is peeling off the wood. My older sister helped paint it years ago as a community service project. There’s a cement court with a single basketball hoop. The backboard is a square of unpainted plywood. A half deflated ball lies beneath it, abandoned. This is where they do the fireworks on Fourth of July. We all sit on blankets or camp chairs back by the playground and watch crouching silhouettes set them off over the cement slab. My dad thinks we’re too close. Maybe. My sister had a blackened sphere the size of a pea hit her on the head once. An unexploded star. She says she felt it. Just a little tap. I don’t know. Maybe we are too close.
It’s raining. Really raining. There’s an inch of standing water in the parking lot. The gutters are swollen to overflowing. When a car passes, pedestrians standing too close to the edge of the sidewalk are doused by a spray of water as big as the splash at the end of any big theme park water ride. Torrents of water slide down the car windows while the windshield wipers flap furiously, squeaking from exertion.
Stopped at an intersection, waiting for a green light, I look out the window. There on the sidewalk where pedestrians stand, waiting to cross the street, I see something on the pavement. Two somethings.
Two sneakers, sitting in the rain. There is no one in sight to claim them. They are alone. Waiting. Waiting for what I wonder?
The light changes. I see a blur of green though the rain streaked windshield.
I leave the lonely sneakers. Though in my head I can still see them, waiting at the cross walk in the rain. Waiting for what? Waiting for who?