Words. They get away from me all the time. When I want them, they wander off in an aphagic haze. When I don’t want them, they release themselves in a raging torrent.
Words come flying out of my mouth without my permission. Like a dog off leash, they wander at will through the forest of my mind and leap at shadows. They come out when I least expect and seldom want them: the loud burst when the crowd suddenly falls silent, the wrong greeting on a holiday, or I find myself speaking out loud at the supermarket. And then I wonder: What just came out of my mouth? Who’s in charge here?
Then there are the words I want to go away but that stick around like a bad cold. Loud words spoken in the heat of the moment. The conversations looping endlessly in my mind at night, replacing dreams under my pillow. Words of resentment and retaliation (“I should have said,” “Next time I’m gonna tell her off!”) Words like darts thrown at a loved one that can never be reclaimed.
On the other hand, there are the words that disappear, the ones that get away from me on the page. I could be planning some writing time, wait for days for my husband to go out so I could enjoy a little solitude. I put on soft music, light a few candles, pull on comfy clothes. Take out a new pen to a fresh page in my notebook, and wait in a cloud of writerly sanctity for the muse to show up. I wait for the dance to begin, wait for the opus to opine, wait for an image, wait for an idea, wait for the phone to ring to distract me from the approaching anxiety that the words have gone on vacation.
When I didn’t drool in hysteria when discussing children’s issues with one of the mothers at work the other day, she accused me of not caring because I didn’t have children myself. It was a blow I did not see coming, so the mom scored a direct hit in my bunker of private pain, creating a massive breach of security. You would think all the words I have ever known would have taken up arms and marched to my defense, brandishing admonishments. But nooooo. The shrapnel of sudden anger blew a hole in my arsenal of words, and left me speechless before her cruelty.
Where do the words go? Why do they abandon me when I need them the most? And then, why do they come roaring back in full color and fancy fonts, waving brilliant flags of phrase and designing clever plots when I’m driving hell for leather down Route 17 during rush hour? Is this some kind of joke? When I cannot grab my pen to pin them to a page, they jump in front of me, taunting me with their elusive sexuality, their sensuous phrasing, their poetic tones. They are like an elusive bird that shows up when you are looking for something else, and when you turn to look at it, it flies away.