You Know our Names
Photo by Hannah Grace Unsplash
You don’t need a story to describe us. You don’t need precision to lay the scaffold of our bodice. You could even close your eyes as you stitch and sew because we always end up with jagged edges, like shards of broken glasses, like calluses on supple skin. See, you really can’t tell our stories properly because we can’t tell ours either.
We are the stories that do not make it to the headlines of magazines, that always come before a blatant rejection letter. The ones our friends pass for 'it's nice' as they search for words to define us, to describe our worthlessness. We are the torn pages of Shakespeare before he finally writes the beauty that is Othello. We are the rumpled sheets as Charles Dickens writes Oliver Twist and we are like Oliver because we consume more and more paper. Misfits! A phrase not quite set well, a bland metaphor, a cliche storyline. We are like newborns, birthed, allowed few minutes to see the world and then strangled because this world is not where we belong.
Give me some time, some time to squeeze our story into small crevices and cracks. Into the forbidden, unnoticeable places.
We are born in light. So much light. Our mother is a young girl, fourteen or fifteen, she is not pretty at all, angular, high cheek boned and flat-chested. She walks home after another stressful day at high school, after another day of trying to earn love and approval. She has seen a lot of our sisters, the ones who fit into the circle of events, the ones who are read in details, who sit side by side other classics on shelves, in rooms, in chapbooks. She thinks of us. An idea bubbling with light. Our birth is unlike humans. It is asexual, a fusion, of magnetic waves and an awakening. She (our mother) conceives us as she walks home. We are a science fiction this time, we are wild imaginations condensed into fiction. She conceives us like the titration practical she had recently performed in her science laboratory. She smiles as we bubble inside of her. She swallows us, into her belly, into the maroon fluid that is her blood and she regurgitates us at intervals. In the bus as she waits for her bus stop, she brings out her notepad and scribbles us like a jigsaw puzzle, scattered pieces that she would put together and bring forth in the comfort of her room. It is the excitement that blinds her, that makes her miss her bus stop and gets yelled at by the driver. She pays extra, for us, for the unseen miracles that we were.
Our birth is painless unlike human births. It is a spilling, a pouring out. Word after word, phrase after phrase. She births us hurriedly sometimes, slowly some other times. She births us with an uncertainty because she had not yet run her fingers through every part of our being, she sculpts us, like they say God sculpts humans. Eyes first, because it is the eyes that see, that bring the light he uses to sculpt the other parts. We think God is slower though (he has to take nine months). For us, sometimes, our moulding and painting and kneading is swift and spontaneous and we become something. I wonder if we are living or not. Living things are born and they die and so if that counts, then we are living things until we die.
Our mother is skilled, she births us with so much dexterity and passion. Her eyes glitter with tears sometimes. Tears because she knows that we would be just as she had imagined. Her babies, her blood children, her ink children. And then she's done. She reads us, she is not sure of us and so she sends us to her friends, fellow mothers who have birthed prettier children. Our sisters. The ones I told you about, the ones she read and wanted to give birth to us. Or sometimes we don't even make it to the sending phase. She sees us and she puts us out, like blowing out a candle, like a post-partum abortion or murder. Humans have a law against murder but we don't because our mothers are dictators, they give us life and so they own us. They twist us at will, they fold our edges and tuck our excesses in, with straight lines, across unwanted words or even pages.
Our deaths are many. Multifaceted but the results are always the same. The world would never know our names. Our mothers may cry after writing us. We are horrible. We are bland. We are an abomination. We may become crumpled pieces thrown on the dusty floors of study rooms, swept and thrown into waste bins. We may be the chapbook that is never read or the memo that is never opened, the one you overlook when you're asked to 'send your works'; like, send your best children because they would be bristled and puckered and loved and cried for. Our deaths may be mild, a forgetting, a self induced amnesia, because you don't want to remember a child born with mashed brains or ectopic intestines. You want to forget them, humans have so many bad memories and they do not want us to add to the number hence, this is a slow, considerable death. We are forgotten. In old brown books, in termite infested journals, in a paper lost on a plane or soaked in the rain. When it is the rain, we are not missed, we are not wept for, we are not spread out to dry, we are squeezed and disposed.
All these deaths I've told you about are not as severe as evaporation. It is as final as it sounds. It is a passing through fire, pulverization to ashes. It is a death that has no rebirth. A death that we fear and we run away from. It is our eventual death. We are gone, we cannot even tell our stories, we cannot rub shoulders with our sisters that have lived in books, in pages, in the minds of people. It is a cruel end I know, but it happens sometimes.
I know you are almost teary eyed for our lives that is short-lived. It is the way things are, just like humans are born to die.
We are reborn sometimes. I know you'd never believe me but some stories are better disbelieved than unheard. You know, truth is like a caterpillar that morphs slowly but surely into a butterfly. It becomes truth with the retelling. It is true because it has been told over and over, passed down endless generations and so has lived and grown wings and flown to nest among other truths of the world. I am saying all these so that you would hold this truth I am about to tell you very dear to your heart. So that you wouldn't let it slip like a soap bar on wet fingers. This is the truth that nobody ever told you; we are reborn.
We are not reborn as stories however. We are reborn as roads, grassy paths that lead to the home of our other sisters. We are the stories that lead to the published stories. The ones that have names, the ones that the world sees. We are the boats and cars that lead you there.
Here's a story of a rebirth:
The little boy, nine or ten years old, a quiet boy who was born a loner. His parents were always at work. His sister was always writing. She was our mother. She would sweep out large numbers of rumpled papers, our carcasses strewn around her room and laid to rest in waste baskets as graves. The little boy would pick us up, broken pieces, he would put us together and read us. He would reborn us in those seconds and spill fireworks for us in his head. We would do him little favours in turn. Fill up his blank spaces, speed up his time, take him to faraway lands, fit him temporarily into his sister's head and then he would smile, he would throw light in our paths. He would reach out to our depths and drink from our bosoms. He would read and read and read volumes of us. We were the ones that taught him new words like 'clairvoyance' and 'petulance'. We made him get Alphas in Literature. His teacher was happy. His mother was happy. His sister was happy. The little boy was kind. He kept us; in paper bags, in between his school notes. He treasured us, he called us art. He came back to run his fingers along the depths of some of us.
One day, the little boy conceives us, he doesn't believe he could be a mother to children like us and so he aborted us in his head. Pre-partum abortion this time. The thing about conceiving is that, you become an incubator or a womb. You conceive and conceive, you observe experiences, you see through closed windows, you want to birth them even just once, even if they die like the rest of us. And so, one day the little boy picked his ink. It was a poem. A poem about aloneness and sadness;
Spring comes like Santa, On pleasant Christmas leaves. Winter hugs lonely souls, On starless nights. Butterflies go to sleep, With rainbows in their eyes. Poems are sad, And humans too.
It wasn't so good, just like the rest of us with jagged ends and rough edges. His sister did not understand the relationship between butterflies and spring. He kept it though, because it was a part of him, he would look back at it and remember that it was the first time he became a mother.
He wrote again, about a girl he liked and the sadness he felt when she rejected him, when she didn't kiss him back. It was better, because you know, love and sadness are the fuel of the ink. The last line was unforgettable; Love is a sea of colourful tears.
Somewhere in the caravan of the future, the not-so-little boy holds up his glass and declares to the world; 'For the nameless stories, for the untold stories!' He toasts to us with several clinks. His laurels are many, his prizes are many because of our many births and deaths. The world does not know our names but he knows our names, she knows our names and now, you know our names.