25 January 2010

Trigger Warning

I used to be a writer. I wrote mostly poetry, but a few short stories started sneaking in as I got older. Words were everything to me. I had so many pictures and ideas and the only way to get them out of my head was to write. So I wrote.

In college one night, I was online in a poetry chatroom and I met a boy. He was a poet, too, but mostly he was a painter. He and I hit a chord and would chat for hours on end. A few months later, I got an invitation to his first art show. I couldn’t go, he lived too far away and it was right around graduation. But instead, I sent him a letter. A few months later, he wrote back. I’d send him letters with stories of my life and he’d respond in kind. I started sending drafts of poetry and he’d send me sketches. Occasionally, we would speak on the phone for hours at a time, but it always went back to the letters. After a couple years, he was prepping for another show, but was travelling to Italy first. The day before he left, he sent me a mural. From Italy he sent me sealing wax with a specially commissioned seal he’d designed for me and had a Tuscan metal artist cast . We had a long phone conversation when he returned. It was a week before his next show. I wasn’t going to be able to make it, but was planning to make a trip that summer. I wrote him my last letter the night of his show.

A few weeks later, I saw his number on the caller ID, but there was no message waiting. I went ahead and called him back, but got his brother instead. My friend had hanged himself a few days after I’d last spoken to him. His brother had found my most recent letter and realized I didn’t yet know. After all, we’d only been pen pals, really.

I wrote one poem after he died, the last thing I ever really wrote. I haven’t been able to write since. I’ve tried and I just can’t. My niece wrote me a letter once, asking if I’d be her pen pal. I couldn’t write back. I started a blog hoping to get my words back. The only words I’ve been able to find are others’ – fact, figures, speculation, and philosophy. A couple weeks ago, I was reading an online journal of someone who wanted to start writing letters and was asking if anyone was interested in old fashioned letter writing. Tonight, I saw a preview for a movie all about a couple writing letters to each other while one is away at war.

I guess letter writing is my trigger, because I lost it. The pain, the loss, the memories felled me. I lost my words when he died. I wish so badly that I knew how to get them back. I dream in novel ideas and when I go to put them to paper or even to type them, I can’t. My fingers freeze. My heart races and I shut down. I’m overflowing with pictures and I can’t do anything with them. I can’t find my words.

And without my words, I'm not really sure who I am.