What is it that propels? What makes you move faster when the work has slowed and the pace is not a lingering pleasure, but instead the top of a breath, an inhalation that waits in the lungs, filling them, bruising them, bursting them? What makes you move when the stillness is no longer peace, the silence no longer grace?
When the mind starts to whimper, the hands ache to create, but the standstill has locked down your arms, what buttons do you start to push, until one boosts you up and out?
Lately I am flooded with propulsion, but not the space in front of me to let it move me. I have no space be moved.
Or maybe the truth of it is not the space. Maybe the truth of it is the rust in my bones will not let me be moved. Like the tin man, hollowed out, I have stood stock still for too long.
I am too accustomed to the zippering up of my emotions, or to the belief that they are somehow a simmering betrayal of the side of me that wonders at the purpose of a public, tearful response to beauty.
In private, behind a door closed to a house that is empty, I gingerly kneel and wonder, why? Why keep it to myself? If it is purpose I am seeking, what purpose do I find in the choking back?
I was not always this way.
Tucked in a corner of a room full of teenagers laughing and teasing, and I wrote with furious abandon. Everything spilled out, and sometimes in the spilling there were tears, and all I thought of was how I wished someday someone would think I was beautiful even with tears in my eyes. I lived and wrote under the assumption that I would always be that soft, that open.
But one by one I closed my doors and windows, shuttering up the response, and now I keep it to myself, best as I can. I move past it, through it, but, oh Lord, don’t ever let anything move me.
I am moved, though.
The water that rushes, pushes, breaks, erodes– it has never stopped moving me.
My feet are planted, buried, under layers of stones and I stand. I am not washed away by the flow.
The current, though, oh, the current, pressing into me in music, a lyric or refrain, in art, in paint on canvas or printed on page – these things still rock me. Feet planted, my knees still go weak.
When a voice holds a note and sings of a passion, a memory, my sleeping pulse quickens and though I cannot touch it, I imagine my hand reaching out.
And what is any art other than a reaching?
A reaching to understand
A reaching to be understood
A reaching to capture
A reaching with the hope of being taken in.
Some days the reaching is enough, reaching until I know what is at the end of my hand.
But I have trained my arms to stay obediently at my sides. To watch, to acknowledge with my eyes but not my hands the texture of a world that invites me into its private corners, to run my hands over the rough and cold stones, to breathe in the stifling perfume of this sweet encounter with what might make me close my eyes and be forced to reach out once again.
Instead of responding to the invitation of a moment to linger, to drink, to reach out and touch, I blink at it. I blink again and duck my head as if I had accidentally made eye contact with a stranger on the train. Surely the glance, the invitation, was not intended for me.
What moves, what turns me around when I was certain I was moving in the right direction?
I am sitting now in a café. It is not the one I wanted to be in. I am drinking black, strong coffee, when, today, I wanted tea. Longing for dark corners I sit in the middle of a bright, bustling room. A hundred people are chewing and talking and feeding children. Others are here with laptops and headphones; exams are soon. The din penetrates past my earbuds, which I am too polite to turn up, just in case the couple sitting right next to me could hear.
Still, I keep the music playing.
Still, I keep my pencil moving as I hunch over a thin notebook filled with smooth, cream-colored paper.
Because earlier I heard a song that filled me, and in the filling I fought the spilling over, but then, instead, I took a deep breath and reached.
Because I am exhausted with staying still.