The Words In Everything
The writer’s words do not have a set time; they don’t work on a schedule, and they don’t care what’s going on. But they prefer the dark. And so it became that he preferred the dark. When all the lamps go out, when the parents go to sleep, when the animals are resting, he’s up because of these words that haunt him. But today is different. Today is the eighteenth summer solstice he’ll ever know. In the morning, he’s thinking of ways to escape the happy birthdays and the party. He wants to spend the day at his laptop, writing his prose and poetry. Around ten o’clock, his door opens, and his mother walks in to see him at his laptop, still in his nightclothes. She sighs and shakes her head.
“Come on, Anthony. Your aunt and uncle are here.”
“Aunt Dawn or Aunt Becky?”
“Does it matter?” His mother crosses her arms and rolls her eyes.
It’s her tone of voice that makes him stop typing. It’s not the fact that she says both his first and last- it’s the way she says it. He closes his laptop and tells her he’ll be down in ten minutes; she gives him five just to be unreasonable. Anthony runs a hand through his messy black hair and lets out an angry breath. Why can’t he just write? Blackout curtains cover his windows, and with the door shut, and the light out, it’d still be night. Anthony could still be at his laptop writing, but his mother broke that illusion and now he’s forced to face reality when all he wants to do is disappear from it. So, he throws on a red t-shirt and faded jeans, brushes his hair and teeth, and walks downstairs where’s he’s greeted by Aunt Becky and Uncle Will. Their greetings are genuine, their pleasantries joyful. They wish him a happy birthday, then give him a birthday card with a crisp Grant stuck in a colorful card likely bought at a drugstore. They eat a small breakfast comprising eggs and toast, and his mother brings out the cake. Anthony tries to look at the clock on the wall next to the kitchen table, with no one noticing.
His father notices because, of course, he does. Neither of his parents understands what it’s like to hold an entire universe within himself. His father is a lawyer, and his mother owns a clothing business in the center of town. Neither of them knows the struggle of staying content with the content he makes. They don’t know the want, the need, to put down the words clogging his brain.
“Expecting a guest, son?”
“Yes,” Anthony lies.
His mother brings out the birthday cake, complete with eighteen candles and green icing with white icing spelling out HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY ANTHONY in cursive. Anthony stares at the letters, at the way they flow into each other so perfectly, like the maker of the cake used a single stroke to write the sentence. He notices how the white icing compliments the dark green icing and how it sits on top without sinking into the red velvet cake underneath. He notices how tasteful the words look and notes their texture and the way seeing them makes him feel.
There’s a knock at the door, and Anthony volunteers to get it. It’s one of his friends, Jessica. Her hair is a shade of green today, with highlights of black; she’s wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a white t-shirt with a bunch of jumbled words. Her face is made up well, with a shiny lip gloss, cat eyeliner, and a smokey eye. But Anthony sees none of this as he stands there, staring at her shirt. He can pick out a few familiar phrases, but it’s chaos.
“Everything okay, Anthony?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Thanks for coming, Inez. Where’s James?”
She laughs and hands him a gift-wrapped box. “He’s on vacation in North Carolina, remember?”
Anthony rubs the back of his head. “Right. Right. Sorry, it’s been an exciting day.”
“You stayed up writing again, didn’t you?”
He offers an embarrassed grin. “Maybe. Come on in; the party is just getting a start. And here, put this on the kitchen counter. I got to run upstairs real quick. I just thought of something.”
He hands her the gift and runs off before she can respond. Entering his bedroom, his face is full of smiles. His laptop sits open and Anthony slips into his desk chair and opens the story he’s been writing. Suddenly, he’s glad his mother pulled him from his laptop; he was struggling to write a bit of dialogue between two characters. One character is confused, lost to a mind that was forced to forget. They’re learning new things and tries to explain to their friend what’s it like relearning what they lost. Suddenly James knows what this character says; he types it up with relief.
“There are words in everything, words for everything, and I’m glad I have yet to discover something that can not be described.”
James closes the document before he can overthink it and closes his laptop. When he goes back downstairs, his mind is no longer in his story.