These days, I am having trouble saying the L word out loud.
It’s easier to stick with concretes. To fill conversations with words that sound so sure, so matter-of-fact, that they leave no room for the things that go unsaid.
Like, “I am busy. I am learning. I am growing.”
Like, “It is quiet & empty.”
Quiet & Empty.
And yes, it is. I can type text messages and emails to tell you how it looks sitting inside a bedroom lit with a lamp I haven’t used since I purchased it three years ago, begging my mother to change something in my townhouse. Something to turn the light on in my life.
Because it felt quiet & empty. Dark & deep & uncontrollable.
But it wasn’t. Not then. Not when you’ve got three loud souls and a cookie sheet with wax paper cooling on the stovetop and a couple of classic rock songs filling the spaces between Me & You & Her & She.
Now, though, I know how to shut my mouth and swallow my fears and let me tell you how overrated it is to keep quiet, stay empty, when all you want to say is “Where is everyone? Where is everything I’ve ever known?”
You learn to send messages at midnight, filled with half of what you want to say and most of what you cannot bear to speak when the sun streams through your bedroom window and rouses you from your mattress.
You master the non-sentence, the fine just fine, the concrete descriptions of what it feels like to be Somewhere You’ve Never Known Existed Until April.
A place you never dreamed about. A place that looks far different from your parents’ house and your best friend’s trampoline and the stretch of brick houses linked together by laughs and kegs and red Solo cup trails leading to your neighbor’s front porch.
You clean and vacuum and wash dishes because you don’t want it to feel dirty. Don’t want it to look lived in. Don’t know what happens when you Let Go & Breathe.
What happens when you say the word out loud.
When you say, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send the L word over.”
And break through all the noise. All the silence. All the things that come with saying it out loud for once. To someone other than your pillowcase or your shower curtain.
And so you whisper it to yourself and wait for the feeling to pass. You send emails to girls you’ve never met and shake your head the minute you hit Send. Embarrassed & afraid & unsure & wishing there was an I Take It Back, It Was Just Hypothetical button.
But I cannot take it back. Because it’s not hypothetical.
It’s real. And it sleeps next to me. Hides in my medicine cabinet. On the kitchen table I forget to use.
And it somehow feels worse, doesn’t it? Knowing you’ve got a couple hands’ worth of names to call and letters you could send and numbers you could dial but all of them are out of arms’ length.
Say the L word.
This is the closest I can come.