There is something about a word written in pencil…
I imagine a pretty face and an empty room and a soft light in the corner at the other end of the sofa. The friends are gone, the kids are asleep, the tiny key pads are silent and the sound of the fish tank is somewhere lost in my daughter’s little tears since the morning I told her fishy wasn’t strong enough to survive the trip to our new home. He was nine…a nine year old gold-fish. A thousand miles later the empty tank with the rocks in the basement somehow made it here in a moving truck with strangers and tonight I miss the sound of the filter and the tiny bubbles and all the nights we spent alone with pencils and notebooks.
I wonder sometimes if my son will look into the empty spaces of pages the way I did in more complicated simple times. I sat on the plywood floor when I was his age, where the winter sun warmed a long rectangle under tall glass reminders of the empty prairie I called home, and colored pictures in shades of grey before dinner. I was quiet and alone….safe. I still remember those days, and cherish those stolen moments between the rest, in a lifetime of pictures and words. Words are deeds…shhhhhh…I am there. Are you with me?
I saw a picture today of a songbook…lined pages and pencil words and I feel the gentle ache of the fragile fingers that bend the page and scribble on into the night. Visions and revisions and strokes and inserts, darker, pressing harder,scratching at the surface but not so hard to tear the page, turning, reaching, searching, holding back the next breath, and stop, no, just the pause before the next flurry.
There is a humble naivety in saying words you can erase. If you are a writer…or a lover lost…you understand. There is an unspoken confidence, an unbroken trust in the certainty that they will be right there where we left them, unchanged…unbroken, approved and unmoved when we come back and call on them again. Right there. Right?
Meet me there. With papers and pencils where the prairie turns granite grey and the memories fade into pale blue reminders of the pages in between.
Post script: There is book I found on a dusty shelf visiting an island antique shop once upon a time. Inside the first page is a short note, “To Lily…1912”, in pencil. It is still there.