Syntax of Feeling
by Sarah Glen
In red pajamas and cold, sore feet I'm hooked around the arms of the blue chair. I've said too much today and my head is hot. Thoughts flow in figure eights. They circle inside my head in colours. White cutting in at the back of my eyes, mixing into blue near my ears and finally moving into a dark green curve before they are looped and recycled into white again.
You would tell me what you saw. Staring up at the chipped white
ceiling, two straight bodies; shoulder curves barely brushing shiny,
What do you see now when you close your eyes? Snakes? Grapes? Me?
I used to speak in words. But I've been shuffled from lecturer to
mute observer. Years can erase all need for language. The colours shift and
mutate, rolling like cool marbles; moving me through what we were, are. They
tell me the same story - from sighs on concrete steps on a cold February
night to silently eating honey sandwiches in a small, cluttered bedroom. But
this time it's different. I'm not planning my next attack. I'm not a strategist.
Just me. Dipping and testing first with my freezing toes until I
sink up to me knees. Shoulders. Bathing in these thoughts. Wrapping them
around my skin in large round curves of swirling colours: hula-hoops of feeling.
It's hard to remember a time when there were words. When they
slipped past the barrier like a cough from a sip of water swallowed too
quickly. Whispered in the car. In the morning. In my ear. To my cheek.
Words, we told each other were too small. They couldn't explain the reasons
adequately. Why did we both like crunchy peanut butter? A heavy white
blanket? Hot showers that made my skin puff up and turn pink like your tongue?
But we still said them. Clung to them. It's what we had evolved
into. No longer people we were the murmurs that
lasted late over sweaty telephone receivers. Like a jagged stone tossed (not
skipped) into a pond these words fell heavy and sunk deep. Repeated.
With my legs curled over the chair the ache in my feet comes in
waves. It's something I forget to notice until I sit and stop. Like my silence.
It'll just get worse - the throbbing that starts in the middle and
branches to my cold, stiff toes.
Where are your hands now?
I'd rub my feet myself but I know if I leave them long enough
they'll turn numb. I remember that. White blocks hitting pavement. It should
happen soon. A couple of weeks perhaps then I won't miss your hands as much.
They never told me anything anyway. Like our words they moved systematically
over the curves of my arches - lips brushing five cold painted daisies.
Changing into the colour you thought I wanted to feel: slate blue, you told me.
But I'm mute now. My mouth feels dry and my tongue is shriveled and
worn; a tacit old woman who only speaks in colours: you as white. Me as them
Sarah Glen never did get around to sending me her self-description.