“I once knew a man who could swallow your emotions and put them in someone else, who could read you like you were the thin translucent pages of an open book. He wrote prose like astral projections, and, sooner or later, if you kept drinking in his salty-sweet words, you would start seeing him everywhere, hearing him anywhere. A vision on the street. An echo in the night.”
He wasn’t like everyone else, he rarely talked and when he did, it was to himself. His presence like that of a hummingbird, light as a feather and fleeting, the air itself holding him in place, keeping him from simply fading away. And like the hummingbird’s wings, he never, in the brief time I spent with him, stop. He was always taking things in and writing them down, twisting them around, feeling their weight in his mouth and then dispatching them on to one of his stories.
There was this one scene I never forgot, the day he wrote about me. As of custom, I only noticed his presence after it was too late. It was a hot day in March and I was emotional, the death of my grandfather still too recent for me to continue living normally through that particular month. I’d been sitting on the living room floor, taping away furiously at the keyboard, trying to put it all out so I could hold the tears in, when I heard him muttering to himself, perched at the edge of the sofa looking as if he might fly away at any moment.
I was so angry at myself for not noticing him, so angry that I’d let someone, and not just anyone, him, see me that way. I simply threw the laptop at the floor and stormed away from the room, the tears rolling down freely and the man watching as I went. I knew, of course, how he had savored every bit of emotion that oozed from me, that he lived on that. I knew that, if I looked hard, I would find bits of them inside his characters, or tucked away in between the lines, to be explored later.
But what made that scene really stick with me wasn’t that I’d just been violated, the emptiness of the emotions he had swallowed aching inside of me, what got me returning to that day for years was the look on his face as I ran from him. His eyes were sad, his mouth turned down, not apologizing but almost, this is what I do, it isn’t different with you. He didn’t look pleased with himself as he must have been, after the river of conflicting emotions that had gushed of me right in front of him, instead, he looked sorry for me, genuinely sorry and, that day, I hated him for it.
He used to disappear all the time, one moment here and the next gone. Eventually, though, he went away for good. For a while, I missed his ghostly presence and his soft, whispered monologues. I missed the pages he would slip under my bedroom door while I slept and the ones I found around the garden, taken from him by the wind. However, slowly, so slowly that I only really noticed until it was absurdly obvious, he started to come back.
I would see him watching the sun go down, or hear him describing the way the birds flew and praising the flowerbeds thrumming with life on spring. I saw him in the tears of widows and heard him in the cries of joy of children in the street. His presence was overwhelming at times, but nonetheless comforting.
Still today, I see him around. There are pieces of him, and pieces he took from people inside most everyone by now. I have a hard time telling apart what’s real and what’s him, tinkering with feelings and playing with words. Sometimes, I wonder if all this isn’t simply him, if it wasn’t him that created us all and the world, if he wasn’t so much swallowing our emotions but rather taking away what had always been his and replacing it where he felt it was needed.
Whenever I’m going crazy with the feeling that none of this is real, that every ounce of feeling inside of me is artificial, his face pops up in my mind. His eyes always saying the same: This is what I do, why would you think it would be different with you?
Credits to anatomyofthewrittenword for the wonderful “starter”.