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" To Write Love on Her Arms | 2008 | Accessories After the Fact "

08.01.08 9:17 p.m.

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.  

-Arthur Polotnik



I can't capture fireworks. No matter how I may try, nothing I write can touch being outside on a summer's night to watch the darkness explode in greens and reds. You've seen your own fireworks and can generalize the experience, but it won't be the same. It won't be this night.

Liz takes pictures of the explosions overhead, an activity I give up on quickly. It doesn't matter that my camera has a setting specifically for this purpose. How can shining blurs express motion? Even were I to take video, it would be nothing like seeing this live. You can tell me you know just what I am talking about, but I can never truly know that. A unique, unrepeatable, indescribable moment is lost forever every time we exhale.

There is always the issue of recording the moment. Once one is aware of the holiness of the moment, one may instantly ruin it. Recording it, taking photos especially, is so intrusive as to be murderous. If I could, there would always be a tiny silver orb that floated above my head or darted through crowds, always recording every aspect it can take in. I wouldn't care that there were 200 photos of the back of Daniel's head or Hannah's right shirt sleeve (at least 2000 of Melanie's shoulder). There would be one where Hannah is smiling without knowing it or Daniel is narrowing his skeptical eyes and it would be closer to perfect, it would express what my words cannot or would remind me what I should mention to you. Taking my camera out will cause Daniel to cover his face. Hannah will condescend to the pictures, but they will instantly become something artificial. You can't covertly photograph someone with whom you are speaking and it is in speaking that they become interesting, that they make the animated faces that begin to tell who they are.

Even in words, my art, it amounts to my noting your silent frustration that I am not conveying exactly the right meaning and essentially telling you that you had to be there. But you can never be there, that would make a new moment entirely. There are no flies on the wall.

It is the drawback of all but telepathic communication that my words can never totally express my meaning. Sure, you grasp enough that you know to run should I tell you about the bomb under your car, but the moment I divert from the concrete and universal, we run into trouble. Even standard words are apt to have nuances and shades that would make no sense to someone who was not there for their repurposing. Every time I talk to Melanie, I struggle and repeat romance and compliments because I am categorically unable to communicate to her in words just what it means for me to love her. It is not how I love Emily or Kate or my mother or my car or my copy of Franny and Zooey or Zack or Melissa or a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, but I have tendered this flexible word to each and melt it. I almost applaud the French differentiating flavors of love or the Germans combining all the descriptors of a new concept into one long, semi-pronounceable jumble. I know I could use the inflections of storge, agape, eros, ludus, pragma, philia, thelema, mania, but they aren't clear enough. I can say a mountain's worth in a touch but the stage direction "he touches shoulder as she slumbers nude next to him, at his touch, she curls close to him and sighs" expresses nothing but a fact.

I'm grateful for these entries because they remind me of what has come before, though I admit to only rarely rereading what I've written. At best, I become a bit distant, noting how my writing style has changed. At worse, I realize how much I have and have not changed. I read clues I tried to give myself and feel guilty for letting myself stroll through the crucible time and again, no matter how much it shaped me to the man I now am. I look back at my attempts to note a moment, detail the flashes and bangs of a first kiss or bad day, and feel perennially burned trying to hold them tight.

Soon in Xenology: Partners in crime.

last watched: The Dark Knight
reading: Spook
listening: Highly Evolved

" To Write Love on Her Arms | 2008 | Accessories After the Fact "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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