Saturday, December 29, 2012


Somewhen along the way he told me that any pair of people has a finite number of words. One hundred twenty thousand, to be precise, spooling out like thread. When the words are depleted, the relationship ends as abruptly as Atropos cutting a thread in her tapestry.

I hoarded my words after that, making do with short phrases, dropping the flowery language I had used before. I think it was a relief to us both, my silence. I no longer felt obliged to move conversations along, chattering to fill the empty spaces. He no longer had to sift through the chaff of words to find meaning. Our conversations grew more intense, more considered. We moved more slowly with each other. We listened more deeply.

I found myself counting. I stopped sharing the dross of the day, instead offering a single well crafted gem of a story. When I spoke he paid absolute attention to my every word. It felt like we were dating again. I came to see his reticence as wisdom, his brevity, profound.

Still I tallied. I sat up late at night, comforted by his sleepy sighs, trying to recall every one of our conversations. I reconstructed and deconstructed the intoxicating wordplay of our first dates when we had explored politics and philosophy and favorite television shows. We had compared books and personal histories, travels and adventures. Nothing had been out of bounds. No limits had been imposed on our banter. I came to regret words wasted in trying to impress him.

I took to writing notes for the little things. Grocery store, get milk. This tactic required strategy, lest it become awkward. Sticky notes on the door jamb, found after I left for work. Dry erase reminders on the bathroom mirror. Texting was a godsend, although I fretted that even those brief messages counted against me.

I marshaled my anxiety, confining it to five minutes at the end of each day. Hiding in my office I would write down the day's number, dropping the tiny shred of paper in an old mason jar, cringing as the drifts grew deeper. I wrote in many colors on minuscule slips of paper that pressed against the glass in a mosaic, slowly building a picture of the passing days. Toward the bottom I could see days in which I wasted thousands of words foolishly spent on gossip. With time and practice I pared the totals down. Three hundred. One hundred twenty five. Fifty.

We hurtled toward 120,000 and I found myself gasping in fear, clinging wordlessly to him until he peeled me loose and begged for an explanation. But how could I give him words, when doing so brought the end nearer? I shrugged and shook my head, and he looked sadly away.

Meals became strained. He spoke, and I wondered if his dialogue counted against us. I tried using hand signals, but we both became impatient with my gesturing. His anger grew to match my desperation. I tried to explain to my friends, but they brushed my concerns aside. One told him of my fears, and he took me to a therapist. She prescribed Xanax and several articles about anorexia and control disorders. I fired her. At home I curled up with him on the couch, relishing our quiet time together.

We passed one hundred thousand, and I grew tongue tied. I gave up the pleasantries of “good morning” and “good night”, dropped “please” and “thank you”. I tried to slow time by not speaking of it. He looked at me askance, and grew quieter, too. I rejoiced. He slipped to the far end of the couch.

He left at 117,232. I tried to shout that we had more words, more days, we could continue. He gave me a speech which I should have treasured, but was to busy counting to hear. When he turned his back I wanted to beg, but I couldn't make a sound. I'd forgotten how.

Bits and pieces of his last talk come to me in my dreams. I write the words down and drop them in the re-purposed mason jar. Sometimes I try and make them into sentences. Into sense. Friends tell me it had nothing to do with the tally. That we lost our connection when we no longer talked. But I know I must have miscounted. That's the only explanation that makes sense.

Friday, December 28, 2012


A poem birthed itself
At exactly 2:15 am
(Between dreams)

I couldn't sleep
Until I caged it.

It fluttered at the edges
Of my mind
and kept me awake.

Exact Measure

I threw my Self entire
Into a pool of dreams
Basking in promises
You never made.
I have since found
that the difference
between my needs
And your efforts
Is the exact measure
Of my desolation.

Friday, December 14, 2012

On Our Knees

The play yard was quiet this afternoon. Parents nodded across the concrete, barely willing to acknowledge their horror on the sacred grounds of our elementary school. Strangers stood close, taking silent comfort in community. We waited, restless for the bell to ring, for our children to flood from the building, to embrace our little ones with desperate relief.

A father stood next to me. I watched as the bell shrilled and his daughter came running joyfully from the building, long hair flying, headband askew. He saw her and collapsed to his knees, unable to hold back his tears as he clasped her to him, whispering over and over "I love you so much".

We were all on our knees today. Praying. Or mourning. Brought down by fear. By horror. We were on our knees with helplessness and anger. Humbled by chance and circumstance and an embarrassing gratitude for our good fortune. Felled by sorrow and sympathy, or, for the truly unfortunate, empathy. 

I don't know where we go from here. I can think of no solutions. I have no answers. I do know I cannot, I will not, stay on my knees. I will rise up and carry on. I will hold tight to my children. And then I will loose them, that they may dance and sing and hurt and love and live. I will cherish them, and love them, and bless the days that I have with them. Because that is all I can do.

Friday, December 7, 2012


The dog is barking mercilessly, high pitched and incessant. I stand to see what he sees. I hear wind chimes and watch dried leaves twitch on cold stiff branches, but there is nothing. He barks again, and finally I understand that he is scolding the unyielding glass. It is an affront, a limitation imposed on him, and it keeps him from the world. He cries out to dance with the crackling leaves and swaying grass because that's all he has. All he ever will have.

I look at the glass and think "this is all I ever will have" and fear wells up inside me until I am breathless, so I turn and make work for myself. I tidy shoes that seem to flee the shoe tray, crossing the floor by themselves as if they, too, seek freedom.

Upstairs I launder and sort and launder and sort clothes that have traveled, that are marked and stained by their journeys, but they always return to the same home, the same room, the same basket. Just as I do. To and from work. To and from children's activities. To and from concerts and movies and dinners and celebrations and funerals. And isn't that what life is? Traveling to and returning from? 

I ache to travel to and not return. To fly far away into a world that is brighter than the dried grass and dessicated rose blossoms of my front yard. More worthwhile than the deflated hellos and goodbyes of long acquaintance.

I turn to the noise of the internet, finding color and excitement, but the screen is flat and impenetrable and I cannot hold the interest of strangers. I return. I return to my dishes and my books, my writing and my knitting. I return to my children who leave me every day and come back different. Each evening I greet new children who look the same but whose peregrinations make them strangers. We get to know each other over snacks and homework, these new children and I.

Secretly I know these rituals are shadows of their ultimate departure. Some nights I wrap them warm in their blankets and think "this is all I ever will have" and, on my knees in anguish, I kiss their sweet brows and whisper my heart into their unhearing ears so when they fly their wings will be lifted by my everlasting love, no matter that they don't return.

This is all I ever will have. This heart, these thoughts, this longing, this love. Most days it is enough. But still I see the glass and imagine throwing the door open, letting the dog escape, adventuring like Dorothy into a land of wonder. But unlike her, I do not wish for ruby slippers to bring me back.