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Letter to Lydia (Words, Words...)

David Bradley
[wurmommy@quik.com]

There is no way that I'll be able to tell it. The words are always filtered or distorted by the time they make the journey from wherever they are inside me to the paper. I could feel the words when I was lying in bed not more than three minutes ago or maybe I mean that the words made me feel things. I'm certain that I felt fear and alienation right after I woke up -- enough to make my heart race, enough to make me wonder if anybody that ever said they loved me was still alive. I was also certain that I had had the dream before when I was in the bed, but when the words try to make the journey to the paper from wherever they came, I think that it was the first time. I think I could feel that I had it before when I was in the bed. I didn't have to know. Had no reason to express it in words. It's like when the dead woman in that Faulkner novel is talking and she's saying the stuff about how words don't really mean anything themselves, how the objects or ideas that mean things are eventually forced to fit into the mold of whatever word our waking minds decide to give them -- like beautiful children dressed in tattered clothing or maybe like Nero's golden house covered with vinyl siding or maybe not.

           She's right, though. Words can't even contain an idea until we've repeated them enough that the silent, subconscious (but that's just a word, not really what I mean), free-thinking part of our brain acquiesces to that brutish, (I would put a word here, but it won't do) part -- the one that society or the government or the metric system or something organized and defined forces upon us at some debated early age by some much-debated means. I've seen this a million times with my son. (When he was an infant, I used to stand over his crib and marvel at him, look into those crystal? deep? blue eyes of his and know that his thoughts were much better than mine or anything the world could ever teach him and think about praying a prayer for him, one about how I didn't want him to be brainwashed? by me or society or anything else, but I stopped praying lies a long time ago). Sure, dog and banana are fine. He can touch a dog or be bitten by it or smell it. He can see and taste a banana. Pain was even a word he could understand early on, but he chose to translate it as huurrt. He fully understood hot when his Grandmother burned his hand in the sink (zink in parts of Louisiana). But bad and good are different stories altogether. I don't even know if he's being bad or good when he pretends not to understand what we mean by those words. I think about it every time I tell him he's being one or the other. Good really means: You're doing just what we say -- eating or sleeping or not. Mom and Dad can have a little rest now or finish our meal in relative sanity. Bad really means: You've done the opposite of good -- the opposite of what I told you. You've urinated in the flower pot or painted the mirrors in the bathroom with shaving cream or ripped your noodles to shreds and put them in your milk again.

           The problem is: time always speeds up. I think it happens the first time I move. No, I'm sure it's as soon as my conscious brain first tells that other part that I was talking about earlier what to do. In the dream my senses were so in tune. I could see the whole thing from above, hear my baby's voice over the speakers, even know what the cashier was thinking. In my dreams I never hear words because I don't need to. (Just like that dream I told you about -- the one where the dead lady came up out of the water after me -- it gave you goose bumps. Or do you remember my words like I remember yours?) I can feel everything. That free part of the brain never tries to confine the feelings to words. I always know the jokes on me. When I'm awake I invariably exist in some relative state of denial about this -- some state of supposed control. For the first few moments that I lie awake in bed, while I'm just reflecting on the dream, not thinking about how to express it to you or anyone else, time stays slow for me. I can feel what I felt in the dream and the words come of their own volition -- unforced words that really mean what I want to tell you. As soon as I have to think about what I want to say, time speeds up again. The words that lingered before me only a few moments before are gone by the time I try to put them down on paper or maybe the words never really said what I wanted them to mean in the first place. Either way, I'm sure that time speeds up. And that is a problem.

           I was going to tell you about this dream I had about going to the supermarket and having check out counters dispersed randomly throughout the store instead of in organized rows at the front and how disorienting it was and how spooky the whole thing was and how I had that feeling that I always get in those kind of dreams -- that feeling of alienation, that heavy, forlorn, permanent sadness; that sense that all of my good friends are gone -- not dead, just somewhere out of reach -- and that the only people left on earth are distant acquaintances and that I can't just die but I have no place to go home to, and how I didn't know where I'd drive my car after I left that supermarket and tried not to think about it and how my baby's cries were playing over the speakers instead of musak, but at this hour my mind always gravitates to you and how I feel about you. I think I would say I love you, because that's the closest word I have (when I was a baby lying in a crib before my mouth was defiled with words I'm sure I could have told you), but that's not it at all. Love is have. I don't have. The thing I feel for you defies shape or sound. It mocks a word that rolls off the tongue so smoothly as love. The word love sounds so tranquil and heavenly? ethereal? It can be made to fit into the shape of a heart or even shot from the arrow of an imaginary creature. This is so jagged and unbridled and relentless. It is this sweet torn feeling as you say (I think that those are the best words to describe it, probably because they are your words). This feeling is so powerful that it even makes the whole process work in reverse. I've seen it take the word beauty and reshape it based on your appearance. It took a few days that time you dyed your hair, but before long beauty was a blonde you.

           When I wake up and realise (the way Faulkner spelled this word) that the worst part about the dream I was having was that you weren't there and that this time the dream matches the reality so perfectly -- and me a strong man (once you even called me macho, remember?) so nicely shaped to fill the word Brad -- and I shiver and cry at a computer at 4 a.m., believe me I don't have the word for it. I wont even try. I just wish you could be inside me for one instant -- I wouldn't wish any longer than that on you -- to feel this beautiful loneliness that reminds me that I wasn't always alone and this longing that persists even in the absence of hope -- not to hurt you -- just so you'll know what I mean because I don't have the word.



About the Author (click here) © 2002 Brad Wurm, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission



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