To scale the tower, one had to ascend unvarnished slabs of wood, dulled by wicked winters and sturdy shoes. (Practical footwear is an unspoken mandate in Montana.) The texture of the wood so memorably close, far nearer than the faces of my adult comrades. Even more prominent, to my four year old eyes, than the weathered lumber was the space between each step. Between each stair nothing existed, just absence, just air and I felt certain that moving my fearful feet skyward would lead my small, young body to be suctioned through this emptiness. The black hole of uncertainty would surely claim me. Instead, I cried out, begging to be carried and refusing to take a single step.
My mother’s breathing grew labored from the burden. I buried my face in her to chest burrowing into the illusion of security. We rode higher and higher, rising to the top of the tower, on the highest mountain, in order to better see the valley below. This is why I write.
I write because I never graduated from being a scared little girl. I waited far longer than the rest of the children before I determinedly sat my tuckus on a bike seat and pushed off one foot for hours, turning circles through our spray painted basketball court of a driveway. I was ten. I’d missed a good many adventures in my caution. I wore a life jacket for approximately the same amount of time. My brothers shook their heads in vicarious embarrassment. I doggie paddled through puberty. Eventually, at the ripe age of twenty six, I became willing to swim with my face plunging beneath surface. Better late than never they say. This is why I write.
There lives a magnetic void between the sturdy steps we take. It both beckons and breaks me.This is why I write. Destruction can be sexy, like leaving the door unlocked, like dancing on top of graves. Like truth or dare. Like tell me something raw and rabid. Like standing here with my lips parted so I can taste our electricity, chin cocked towards the clouds which keep threatening to rain but can’t commit, just like me, daring you to ruin everything. Eat crackers in bed. Rub my eyes with sriracha fingertips. Lick my gasoline. Hold me by the throat. Convince me to gift wrap my sovereignty, and trample the woman you truly love’s tender heart. Fuck this. Fuck this. Fuck this. There lives a magnetic void between the sturdy steps we take. This is why I write.
I write for the same reasons I travel and climb and make love. It leaves me naked and excruciately vulnerable. It reminds me that I am finite and that terror and triumph are inextricable. My brothers told me they would bring me on the pirate adventure under the condition that I could be brave. Keep up! They wouldn’t be waiting. When my foot slipped through the moss and plummeted into the frigid water of the mountain thaw, it stole my breath and my white shoe. My eyes widened, pulse quickened, my mind lunging to “whoopings” and quicksand and rodents of unusual size. I bit my lip while they chased it, running between window openings in the moss trying to scoop the shoe before it whooshed past on the icy currents. I didn’t speak, else my voice would crack and reveal the truth of my terror. If I wanted to come on the explorations, I had to be brave. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t whimper. These were the rules. With all the fanfare of righteous warriors my brothers retrieved the delinquent sneaker and carried me home on their shoulders victorious. They spouted the action packed tale of the traveling shoe and sang praises to the girl who didn’t cry. The message was clear. Pretend. Pretend. Pretend. Pretend you do not fear even when you do and people will bring you along on their grand adventures. In many cases this has proven to be true.
I write because I am small, so , so, very small, and the world is big, so very, very big. Sometimes I think I can hear the fiery breathing of a dragon at rest. She slumbers on a hill close by. The magic is sleeping and when it wakes the words will come. I wonder if her dragon’s breath will fan the flames of my curiosity, incinerate my fears, or obliterate this flirtation.
I write because there is no one to carry me up the stairs. I am a scared little girl. I am also the one who carries her and her fear. On one of the many days of recent past in which news of gut wrenching violence rippled through our communities, I found myself standing in a room with thirty college students. I wanted to sit down and weep into my hands. I wanted to confess my fascination with the warped and weathered wood and the ominous spaces between them. I fear they will steal me. Perhaps this void will consume us all. I scanned behind me in the subconscious hope that someone more equipped than I had arrived to bear the burden of cradling this blank space. Behind me stood a wall laden with mirrors. Me and my reflection, the adults in the room, the ones with the theoretical answers, I didn’t offer any. It did not seem like a day for pretending.
I write because I hate being lost, and I am ALWAYS lost, even when I think I know where I am, or what or who is next. I write because while I’ve rarely enjoyed bushwhacking, it usually makes for a good story. Enough already with ALL the fixing. I surrender the illusion of ever getting my bearings. Allow me to resign from all this trying. I write to drop the hate and the rebellion against my own transience, in hopes of loving my own mess. This mess is why I write.
I write because there is pleasure to solitude and a cold ache to loneliness, these sensations do not always comply to context. I write because forgiveness hails like warm sunlight hitting my receptive body from the inside. Love often sears like a branding iron. I’m still sporting a sling from my most recent skirmish with my high horse. I write because many a well placed story has changed the trajectory of my life.
I write because at the top of the stairs there sits a cot, and hot plate, and vantage point to see all the pines and the homes and the people. There lives a guardian. It is the task of the person on the top of the mountain, at the top of the stairs, to watch over the valley. That is the point of a watchtower. Perhaps it is the point of us as well, to stand in observation and preservation of this collective and individual rhinocerous ride of a life.
I write because my reflection revealed that I’m the only one in the room and someone must watch and guard the encroaching spaces. I write to tell the truth about the dares I direct at destruction. I write because I believe in sleeping dragons. Our mouths are beds for incantations and our lives are homes for slumbering magic. There is a stream beneath the moss waiting to steal your white, summer shoe so you can prove that you are ready to be the brave explorer. I write to pretend to be brave, to put my face beneath the surface of the water, to place my candy ass on the bike seat, better late than never. I write because I remain perpetually lost and enduringly scared but there is a set of stairs built from unvarnished wood and unyieldingly blank spaces. Wake the dragon. Dance on graves. Climb the stairs.