The full moon is laughing, painting the sky in graduated shades of denim blue while I listen to the bubble of silence in which I am caught. A sprite appears from behind a pale petunia.
“The cedar you hang on to sometimes is concerned about the frowns, some new lines he sees on your heart” she says.
She has a little crooked smile. She sits on the rim of the flower pot, legs dangling over the edge. Her eyes shine in the dark; a flash, a twinkle now and again. She is all blues and grays in the moonlight, a halo on her hair. She is waiting for me to say something…
So I lie.
“I am fine.”
What else can I say?
How can I say I am adrift, my sail is torn, the rudder is broken, the mast is cracked and the compass fell into the Med who is not giving it back?
“You could just say that” she says softly “that would be truth.”
“What is truth?” I snort, echoing somebody else’s words, not even wondering about her mindreading skills.
“Truth is elastic; truth is a narrative of changing, subjective points of view. There is no truth, only facts. Facts have no shade, no may be or might have been. If it is quantifiable it is a fact, everything else is conjecture and personal fables, not truth” I rant on.
Lazy pine needles outlined in silver stitches reach for the moon in a gentle and brushing sweep but she sidesteps them with a smile; they won’t touch her tonight.
An owl calls out on a passing breeze.
The sprite eases off the petunia pot, bounces closer to my chair, surveys its height and, in a graceful leap, lands on the footrest. She sits and tucks her legs under her, brushing off something I can’t see off her lap. The moon wraps a beam on her shoulders.
“Why are there lines on your heart now?” she asks.
I don’t answer. My eyes play with silver ripples in the water.
My mind drifts and her voice comes in shambles, small echoes of past dialogs or frustrated interior monologs and interminable quandaries without answers.
Then I hear:
“It is hard to be truthful with yourself. Would you venture to guess why?”
I am really not in the mood for a Socratic learning experience.
My wounds are fresh. I have been dressed down once more and demolished.
My mistakes and monumental flaws are looming large; I crumple in their shadows as my harpies jump up and clap with glee…
No charades for me tonight. Please.
Another soft breeze draws ruffles in the water that die in short exhalations; dried petals crunch against each other.
A faint smell of wild dill floats by and leaves before I can catch it and fill my lungs with it…
“No, I don’t venture to guess” I say, a little too sharply to be polite.
“It’s simple, really. People just don’t like the answers to their questions. They don’t like the discordance between the stories they tell themselves and reality.”
“We don’t like them? There are often multiple explanations equally acceptable, equally plausible or possible for any one question! Nothing is that simple.”
She looks at me with an intensity that lasts too long then with her little crooked smile she says “Let it go.”
“Let it go. Let go of your belief, the thought that hurts.”
“ I don’t know how. My words… It’s always my words that create storms. Words that become reality, a concrete thought that anchors itself to emotions and hurt.
“Do you know this to be true?” she asks.
Do I? Is it so that these words, those tiny scratches on paper, these sounds coming out of my mouth, sink in my heart or someone else’s and make lines, ruts, folds, scars?
Is it so that an utterance becomes concrete?
“It is the magic of words” she says softly.
“What kind of magic is that?!” I cry “I should be mute if all I do is cause pain, because clearly this is more power than I know how to handle!”
I don’t mean to sound distressed, but there it is: a heavy, abrasive and dark tone falls, clips the arm rest and lands with a thump into the flower pot.
The moon gets blurry, iridescent. Fragments of rainbows shatter the night sky through wet lashes.
I really did not mean to go there. The balloon in my chest inflates again and squeezes everything. No, I am not going to cry.
Deep breaths… In. Hold it… Out, slowly.
The moon shifts a bit, shines on the sprite. She is not a young sprite like the others. I can see expression lines on her face, around her gray eyes and around the Mother Teresa smile she is giving me.
She pats my foot affectionately.
“You’re such a drama queen!”
She says it matter-of-factly, without malice, but I feel it sink in my belly scratching my chest as it goes.
“You ascribe judgment to what I say. Drama queen is a descriptive. Drama queens are usually entertaining… some more than others…” she quips.
“You use words like “always” and “never” liberally. These are absolutes that belong to eternity, over which you have no control by the way and from which no recovery is possible. When you hear these words you use them as a blanket truth for who and what you are… if it is negative… Then ‘Off with her head!’ you say”.
She chuckles while rubbing my foot. It is a soothing gesture; I may not have heard her otherwise. Cicadas are having a party.
“I hurt others too.” My heart flips as I say it.
“Do you know this to be true?”
“I can see it, so it must be. I won’t swat a fly but I leave a trail of pain and destruction in the curl of linked letters.”
I picture my handwriting move on and on across lines of paper: my truths of a moment, overstepping boundaries, running into margins, invading a space that is not mine, attributing intentions, blithely egocentric …
“Sprites are born with filters in their hearts, did you know that?” she asks as she moves up the arm rest like a funambulist, coming closer.
“You do remember that sprites are born giggling and happy, which is why we call First Feeling what you call happiness, don’t you?”
Yes, I nod.
A cedar branch creaks a little. A plane draws a line across the moon and blinks his excuses. Even cicadas are listening as she continues.
“When a thought comes up, before it has a chance to become a meaningful word it goes through a sine qua non filter. If it is not evidently true it does not stay; does not become believable thus generating emotions. For instance “You are thoughtless” is an untruth unless the target is a rock—that’s what people think anyway—therefore that thought will not become a true word, a reality that rattles in a sprite’s mind and chest for it to crush the soul and take first feeling away.”
People don’t have those filters.
We are like sponges; we latch on to every word that fits and feeds the personal narrative built in a lifetime. We build ramshackle walls around our fragile hearts and yet we wish for a breach to rescue us from our dungeons.
I am thinking in pictures to avoid words, very quietly.
“Then edit your narrative.” She says, leafing through the images in my mind. “Start with this:
“Nothing” and “everything”, “never” and “always” are not sprite words, they build walls, not windows. They impose a finality that does not exist. They shut out the world and cut off love.”
“It is useless to question the intention of a word; question its veracity all the way to its logical conclusion.”
“I am” is not a terminal disease unless you will it to be.”
Are the fables we engineer keeping us afloat in unchartered waters or do they moor us in the shallow end of the bay, unable to sail, ride the wind or hold on to love when it wanders in through the windows of the soul?
I close my eyes for a second.
A light touch, something warm stays above my forehead, like an air kiss or may be the flutter of an eyelash brushing a cheek, what I told my babies were butterfly kisses.
The cedar sways but she is gone.
May be I will sleep next to the tree tonight.
Let him watch over me.