Words are poor bastards


I’m at a party. There are people lining the room, being pushed further and further into the pale yellow drywall as the extroverts try to talk to everyone at once. They push their way through the crowd, touching shoulders and nodding heads as they work to form a connection with the masses. I’m pressed into the corner of the room, a cup filled with burning liquid in hand, staring into the politely bored faces of two other partygoers. They know one another, girls from the same area who have enough in common to start the foundation of a conversation. They turn to me, nice enough to try to be inclusive. They ask who I am, and I strain to tell them over the pounding of the music. They get my name wrong when they repeat it back to me, but I don’t correct them. They ask me yes or no questions, and I gratefully either shake my head or nod it. Then they ask me the harder questions, the ones that require words and not body movements, and I engage, but they can’t understand what I’m saying, and soon enough they stop trying. They subtly turn their bodies toward each other, and I remain backed into the corner, sipping on my drink and wondering if it would be rude to leave even though I’m technically still part of their conversation, though not verbally.

I leave the party with a sort of hollowness in my chest, painfully aware how my night went. The next day, when others ask me how it was, I, of course, tell them it was great. So many nice, cool people. But I know my words are lies.

As Marilynne Robinson said in her novel Home, words are such poor things.

If this were my world, the currency that is language would be near obsolete. That may sound primitive to someone who values words as much as bees do honey; but, to me, speech is merely a carefully crafted mask for intent.

Words are deceitful. They are hollow. They are insecure.

Don’t give me words. Meet me in a quiet place. Let me hear the breaths taken between airy sentences. Let me notice the way fingers fidget and entwine as new subject matter is thought up. Let me feel the intensity of the human gaze.

These bodies we have been placed in are such wonderful, expressive things. They have a language all their own, and that is the language I am more interested in learning.


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