We write our histories in permanent marker on the bathroom stalls of life.
She types it in and stares for a while into space, searching for the reason, as if her muse might appear out of thin air. There is nothing, no one there. She hits the little blue button anyway.
She enjoys the hopefulness of the moment—perhaps they will see merit in her poetry, perhaps they will ask, like she does, where it originates. She wonders if there is life here. Will something grow from these seeds she’s planted?
Setting her phone aside, she resumes dicing onions. She is not good at cutting onions, or cutting anything, really. The pieces come out uneven and there are always little bits of skin and peel to pick out of the sautéing pan.
Her writing is the same way, she thinks. Imperfect. She sees slivers of herself, her skin, left clinging to the margins. A comma in the wrong place like too much salt. Never just right.
Her dishes usually taste fine, so she hopes her writing is palatable at least. But she can never be sure. Words always taste different when they come from someone else.
That night after dinner, she sits and refreshes the app, watching as the comments are posted in real time. She doesn’t know why she cares. “Froglover34” probably isn’t a vital literary figure, but she replies to them anyway. It is the human thing to do, she thinks.
And she is nothing if not human.
The next morning, he sees the post and laughs. Not that he thinks it’s funny, because he doesn’t. He thinks it is essential. He whispers the words and breathes them in, lets them fill his lungs, and smiles as his being expands at their resonance.
He wishes he could tell her that her words sustain him, but he knows that a like and a comment wouldn’t capture the way her words reverberate through him. It would feel insincere, sending shallow roots of friendship this way.
He is afraid to watch things wither, so he says nothing and simply sends it to a friend who might enjoy it, too.
He grew up on a farm. He knows what real soil is, the kinds of things that thrive in it. What he does not know is how to sustain things that do not need the earth to grow.
He steps away from the laptop, grabs his keys and a mask, and heads out on a whim, not knowing where he’s going.
In the car, he finds himself wishing that her words were his. He knows he could make music from them, he can feel the song in his fingers, which are calloused from the fretboard of his old Jasmine guitar. He turns on the radio and loses the melody before it has completely formed in his mind.
He’s certain he wouldn’t have done the words justice, anyway.
He starts the engine and clutches the wheel, struck with a joyous epiphany. He knows where he is going, where her words are leading him.
We carve our dreams in the margins of memory, hoping the marks can preserve them.
She thrives on anonymity. It is a safe prison from which to write, hemmed in on all sides by unbidden words.
She watches her notifications climb and wonders if it is because her words are profound or pathetic. She is not sure what they are, or if they are even really hers.
Regardless, the attention is undeserved, she thinks. She hovers over the button to delete her latest post, but sets the phone down instead and walks away to brood over the stale taste of her words on her tongue.
She sits at her desk and glances at her open journal. She hates the look of a blank page, the way it stares into her and sees her own blankness, her lack of depth. A stark white sheet of paper exposes her like nothing else can, reminds her that she is unfit for the task. She closes the journal to hide from that pale abyss.
The days are woven together tightly, indistinguishably. She rather enjoys this state of limbo, now that she is accustomed to it. A whole year, nearly, of lathered hands under too-hot water, of distance from normalcy. An entire era of solitude, fit into the span of eleven months.
She thinks she is on the verge of finding herself in the silence. As soon as she does, she knows she will change again, and she’ll have to fashion herself a new chrysalis from which to emerge.
With a sigh, she straightens her back and lifts her arms over her head towards the ceiling. The little pots along the windowsill catch her eye, full of withering plants. She has never been able to keep a plant alive, not even the succulent her sister bought her once. It seems she never knows exactly what they need. More sun, or less? Another drink? She’s never sure.
She doesn’t really know why, but the dying plants sometimes make her wonder if she does not love enough.
Or perhaps she is simply too untethered to sustain much of anything that does not involve vowels or consonants. Even they sometimes demand too much of her.
He pulls into the parking lot and slips his mask on, welcoming the familiar hiding place. He isn’t sure why her words prompted him to come here, but they did. Feeling emboldened, he clambers out of the car and into the faded February sunlight.
The animal shelter is loud and smells of urine. He doesn’t mind, he grew up with all sorts of animals on the farm. There is a small woman at the desk, with thick black glasses and a pixie cut. Her mask has pineapples on it, which makes him smile.
She directs him to the room to his left, where small cages wait behind the glass doors. She reminds him not to touch any of the animals, and he simply nods.
He hasn’t owned an animal in several years. His ex had a schnauzer that hated him almost as much as she did. She dumped him last month. He decides he’s a bit put off of dogs at the moment, and heads towards the cats.
The one he chooses is small, with plain grey fur and sad yellow eyes like dandelions. He isn’t sure why he’s drawn to her, but he thinks that he recognizes something in those dandelion eyes. The name on her cage says “Mrs. Whiskers,” but he plans to change it to something less matronly.
He signs the papers, pays the fee, and leaves with the unnamed feline in tow, headed to the pet store for supplies.
The cat mewls tentatively from the little crate in the backseat. He wishes he could let her out, but she seems to feel safer in her little prison, at least for now.
He thinks that he is finally doing something good, and not just for the cat.
He decides to call her Yeva. She will remind him of what he already knows, that life requires much to sustain it, that roots are woven together with the earth for a reason.
When he gets home, he posts a picture of Yeva exploring her new home. He thinks about finally commenting on that post, the one that inspired him to write his own history.
Ultimately he decides against it. Surely she knows the power her words hold.
He picks up his guitar instead and plays Yeva a song.
When all else fails, we write our initials on our wrists and let the ink linger on our skin. We hope it is enough.
She has over a million followers now. That’s more than two million eyes, watching. She realizes that her words are inconsequential compared to the poetry of just one of those lives.
And she realizes that she is capable of something of consequence.
Phone set aside, she reaches for her journal. The blank page is terrifying and strips her bare. Capable as she may be, she worries that she won’t know when to water her words, when to leave them lying in the sun. She worries that they will taste bitter, unloved.
She picks up the pen anyway and begins laying down roots.