Real in the sense that it felt fleshy & alive. It took up oxygen in the air. It had footsteps & nicknames & places to be.
I wrote a story about Tragedy so that he’d have roots to trace back. I wrote about Tragedy as if he were an old man, with creaky limbs and cutting blue eyes. I planted Tragedy square in the middle of a seaside diner by the Atlantic City boardwalk. I gave Tragedy a newsboy hat. I gave Tragedy a scowl. And always, always, Tragedy was a man who never liked his job description. Never did he like how he rushed in to cause the tears and rushed out before the healing ever came. He walked up & down that boardwalk, drank half a cup of coffee at the diner, made small talk with Ruthie, the waitress, and then rushed off to a slew of funerals & war zones for the day.
Y’all already must have known what a desperately strange child I was.
I was never the child who wanted sunlight. Never the girl who was amused by water parks. Never wanted to be stuck in the presence of other sticky children who hoarded aficionados for candy & cartoons. I only wanted to be left alone to sculpt stories & breathe life into my characters: Tragedy. Happiness. Envy. And the leading lady of them all– Love.
Love was a girl all wrapped up & glowing in a red scarf, a pony tail at the nape of the neck, and long fingers curled around a spiced hot cocoa. Love, she spoke so slowly, always on the verge of melodically. People would stumble over her before breakfast but she’d always speak her syllables out one-by-one like she was leading school children across the street.
In a world where we’ve always wanted things to be neat & orderly, precise & predictable, Love has never truly fit in. She’s the rebel of the group. The mold breaker. The new girl in the cafeteria that everyone notices for her ruby-red lips and yet they all turn to go when it comes time to shake a hand or swallow a grin from her. Love can be an awfully intimidating thing.
Love has always had to fight a lot harder to win our attention.
Where Tragedy blows us over like little piggies with super power breath, Love has been the quiet fighter. Brinking for our hearts like the ever-patient hero.
The radio blares of her. The movies personify her. The books– embossed covers & classical endings– burrow romantic little holes into our bones. But we get so distracted, so cluttered with the Must-Do’s and the Should-Do’s, that we forget how old-fashioned of a place Love has always wanted to take in our lives.
We might stand in the longest, weaviest lines that snake through the malls on Black Friday. Go home exhausted. Rush through the motions. Frantically decorate the house. Shop some more. Bake some more. Stay busy, busy, busy. And never once look up into the heart of this season to see Love standing at the door, right beneath the mistletoe with her ruby-red lips, ready to tell you how many lines she waited in just to get to you. You’re worth it like that. Don’t you know you’re worth it like that?
“Don’t try to limit me,” Love would say. “And don’t think I’m leaving tomorrow or the day after Sunday. Don’t box me in. Don’t worry about me running out. I don’t run out. I only rush in.”
“Speak slowly when I am around. Let me go where I need to go. Unleash me to dance with the ones you so adore. Let me get all wrapped up in them. Let me get tangled in their hair. Above all, don’t be afraid to say that you want me– in every area, in every morning, in every hour. Just let me be as I was made to be: Thick. Big. Overwhelming but Understanding. Overflowing but Underrated.”
She does not want the busy. She doesn’t care for the frantic. She aches to be trusted. Aches to know that someone, somewhere, will just let her spill over them, flood them, wreck them, rule them, keep them more full than any other emotion in this world.
And here we hide– behind text messages, behind rules we’ve constructed for our selves, behind barriers & past hurts, and “you wouldn’t really love me if only you knew this…” rhetoric. But not a day goes by where she forgets us or thinks less of us or does not survey the damage of the hurt and says, “How deep is the cut? I promise I can fix that.”
Not a day, not a day in Love’s life, has she ever cared for the petty precision we use when we are trying to define her. And bottle her up. And control her. And make less of her. And keep her from doing the very things she has always, always, always been so good at. But only when we let her in. When we let her set the table.
That is where I find myself stopping.
Wanting to put the pen down. Wanting to end this blog post. Afraid to go an inch further because I don’t know what it would look like to have Love set the table; night after night after night after night. Make that table so full that there’d be no room for Fear. No table setting for Anxiety, no wine glass for the Worry. No chance of Broken Bits of Bitterness scampering around the fringes of the tablecloth to steal biscuits from the bread basket.
Love. I think she sets a mean table. She cooks a raging turkey. I think she delivers a pretty sizable spread. But she demands the things that we are so stingy to give within a life that has monopolized us with shame & guilt.
When you sit at the table that Love sets, you let things go. You let old battles die. You roll up your sleeves and you release the anger you’ve harbored inside. It breaks her own heart to see you so bitter. You take down your flags of white surrender.
You admit that you’ve been wrong. You let her heal the parts of you that you swore were not so relevant. You stay open. You stop trying.
You dig in. You. Just. Dig. In. To what life could look like when Love is the ally– not the toxic home wrecker. When she whispers, “Babycakes, I ain’t skinny. I’m not no skinny love. Maybe that’s a pretty song but I’m so thick that I could push you flat like a rolling pin. Come on, child. Let’s eat.”
And your eyes might water. And your tongue might get dry. And you might say that you got this love thing wrong the whole time. It was never running out, it was always rushing in.
Her name sings like the last line in a poem. It sounds like bells, the kind they hook to horses when their hooves patter and pull the carriages through the snow.
Oh, not a day goes by where she doesn’t think of you first.