Words are coin. Words alienate. Language is no medium for desire. Desire is rapture, not exchange. It is only by alienating the desired that language masters it. The frenzy of desire in the medium of words yields the mania of the catalogue. I struggle with the proverbs of hell.
J.M. Coetzee, In the Heart of the Country.
When has language ever mirrored the depth of the human experience? Communication is rare. Even the great writers knew it. Emotion is lost in the spaces between words. It is crushed by the machinery of syntax. It cannot stick to paper, dripping through the gaps between my letters and down the margins and gutters on my pages. They strike like lightning and ground themselves in the Earth. Lost forever in an instant, leaving only burned images in the eyes of creatures cursed to remember such passions imperfectly.
I could say that I miss you, but how would these three words ever communicate the ache burrowing into my chest, searching?
I miss the feeling of your tiny fingers tracing invisible spiderwebs on my face. It felt like what I imagine your soul to be like. No metaphor or simile cut the mustard. I eventually thought of static electricity grounding itself in my skin. Tingling. I remember asking you to describe the experience. It was important to me to know how it felt for you, across the unbridgable abyss. The words that made the answer meant nothing because I’ve never felt what you felt. You said that among experiences, it was a first. I remember my skin stretching at that, smiling.
It’s only then I realized that adjectives are impotent. It would take an infinite number to describe any moment adequately, and without prior experience, they’d mean nothing. All adjectives are subjective things, privy only to each human being alone. Interjections are closer to accurate, being creatures of our deepest tides and desires. All I remember is what your skin felt like on mine. My skin feeling yours, and in between, us. The sense of touch gives what it takes. I felt like I could afford to be greedy because the feeling was free. The urge to speak is recent – proselytized – where the urge to touch each other is primal and natural. It is beyond our ability to police this need. Why would we if we could?
Language only makes it easier for us to hurt each other because it assigns values to words that have no value without the ideas they stand for. We believe that the word and the idea are two different things, and this is why words are more careless with the remembering of things than touch is. Words distance us because we base our relationships around them, and what we think we are is but a dry husk of what we really are. If we don’t even know who we are, then how will we ever know each other? We see ourselves in a broken mirror in a dark room and to each other we are blind. Language is no vehicle for what is inside us. Whatever that is, it speaks for itself far less clumsily than words do. To know something, a man cannot be a part of it. To remember and describe something, he must stand outside it and at a distance, bringing all his senses to bear upon it. The cost of words is separation and heartache.
I wish this page were my hand, instead of what my hand leaves behind. I wish it could reach out and run my fingers down your cheek. I may begin to forget many other things, but I can remember every childlike drawing you sketched on me with the barest pressure of your artist’s hands. I cannot forget that you used your love for ink. It is the skin that remembers what love felt like, and passes it down to the heart that cannot remember it, but aches to. Not words, or pictures. It is my skin that understood the truth of what we are. It remembers the invisible tattoos of your caresses, and this is enough.