Words to live by

by molly wilson

There once was a man who lived for words, yet he himself was no master of them. They were clumsy on his tongue, jumbled together on his lips and often times got smudged on his fingers. He was young once. In that youth he met a young woman. Was she beautiful? Perhaps she wouldn't be beautiful to you. Not every heroine must be, at least not on the outside. As it was her nose was a bit too pointed, sharp. Her eyes were a bit too hungry. She was not slim and ideal, but carried weight around her torso and arms. It was her mouth. She had the most stunning mouth. It was home to the most beautiful words. He would kiss her and he could taste her words. Those playful anecdotes, the proclamations, the beliefs, the unconditional declarations. She was a master of words. She was an enchantress.

But she wasn't meant for this world.

It was one morning, not too late after dawn, when he woke to find his love gone. In her place were her words, they stained the mattress and poked out of their pillowcases. They sat in distracted jumbles on the bedroom floor, scratched the glass of their mirrors. They clung to the tail ends of his sleeves, the crinkles of his laugh lines.

With a heavy heart, he gathered them up.

He found a box. A wooden box, polished. It had the faint smell of lemons. He carefully distributed her words inside and then carried the box with him seven blocks due north.

It was by the river where he found a home for the box. He set it down and let tears cut scars down his cheeks. He rocked and moaned. All this did not bring her back. Her words remained in the lemon-scented box. The young man made a decision then and spoke his last words into the palm of his hand. Then he gently placed the words on top of the box and lay down beside it. Waiting for death to take him.

Death did not take him, but he did appear before him. He felt great sympathy for the man but told him he could not take him before his time. Then he handed the man a pen. "Write."

So, the man did. He wrote constantly, words ached through him, scratched, clawed their way on to paper. Sometimes in his frenzy he could make out her nose in a vowel, her eyes in a sentence or her beautiful mouth in a paragraph. The words started off stammering but grew impressive over time. So much time passed him as he wrote that soon the young man was a man until finally he was an old man.

That's when she returned.

He was in a small room, a room he used as an office. A disorganized mess of a room, papers strewn everywhere. Half eaten jam toast on assorted plates. Dust, dust, dust. None of that mattered though.


Because there was his love, and she was clothed in stardust. She spoke. "Read to me."

And he did. He read. He read to her well into the night. His words, their words. When he finished she came close to him and laid his last words back in the palm of his hand. He said them with a smile on his face.