Although it’s evident now that every one of the quarter of a million words you wrote in those 250 love letters are no longer true, it kills me that you are still reluctant to admit that and set me free.
Tell me it was never going to be me. I always knew it was true. But I needed to hear it from you.
“No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention.”
I ran a half marathon in October (“run” being a strong word, really). The 13.1 miles wove in and out of an amusement park at night.
For the most part, we trucked along stretches of nothingness: trees and paved road and darkness and nothing more.
And then there were these short bursts of life. With lights and rides and attractions. Ferris wheels and circus animals. Blasts of color, excitement, animation.
As soon as you’d get to those brief moments of glitter, you’d immediately pick up the pace. Taking longer strides. Running faster. The sheer thrill of it all propelling you through. Without even thinking. Like acting on instinct alone.
During that race I remember wondering, why don’t we slow down when we get to the good part? Why don’t we ease our pace and pause and breathe it all in?
It’s the same in life, isn’t it? Every moment when it was so, so good. We should’ve slowed down. We should’ve been paying attention.
I’d be lying if I told you I drink sweet tea out of Mason jars. Or feel comfortable driving a pick up truck. My backyard never did have a tire swing. And I can honestly say I don’t own a single a pair of cowboy boots and certainly wouldn’t know the first thing to do with a teasing comb. Most folks don’t even detect that faint Georgia accent in my voice except on select words like sugar, maybe, and Marietta.
But the South has crept into me in others ways. In twilights spent chasing fireflies. In the sound of fresh-picked blueberries falling in yellow plastic buckets and the smell of boiled peanuts from a roadside stand. In rainy tin roof lullabies. In over-yonder and reckon-so and I-do-declare.
And the South taught me a thing or two. Like how to catch a tadpole. Or how to flirt with boys. What side of the plate the fork goes on. And which vegetables are best for frying. It taught me important contractions like fixin’to and all-y’all. And when it’s okay to wear white shoes.
But it was while buried in the South’s endless summers and darting beneath her falling leaves and scalding every last taste bud with hot cocoa and waiting for the jonquils to bloom… it was in the South that I found my voice.
There was a park bench. And a distant cloud shaped like soft-serve ice cream in a sugar cone.
She sat there until the sun set beyond the tree line and the air around her shifted from a notch above comfortable to unseasonably chilly.
Why does the wind always decide to stir when the sun goes down?
She tugged thoughtlessly at her thin mustard cardigan, tightening it around her, but refusing to move.
Not until she answered the question.
What inspires you.
So simple. So harmless. Why did it leave her empty inside? With no answers. No exits. Nowhere to turn.
What inspires you.
Surely there were artists or poets. Friends or enemies. Moments. Memories. Brilliant settings. Breathtaking views. A place that cannot help but draw forth all she seeks to be. Truly is. Longs for.
There must be.
What inspires you.
Not a word. Only empty sounds to echo the silence.
Whistling wind rustling the trees. The soft scraping of liter running amuck into trash cans and sidewalk curbs. The gentle pacing of a runner’s stride. And lull of fountain waters flowing.
The world is an evolving place. An endless jigsaw. An spinning bullet trapped in space.
Yet it holds something continuous. Something steady. Something still.
Surprise. And anger. Laughter. Hope. All we feel and have ever felt before. Fear. Pain. Faith.
And love. And love. And love.
Even when there is nothing else. Even when there was nothing else. Even after the ovation. After the final curtain call. We are the sum of all we feel. All we have ever felt.
All that has caused our blood to course. Our palms to sweat. Our brows to furrow. Our eyes to wince in agony. All that has caused our heart to leap. And skip a beat. And make us believe we’re invincible once more.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.