BY E.M. FORTIER
What changes you? What wakes you at night? Is it love or hate? Hope or fear? Silence or commotion? Joy or sorrow?
I remember being a small child, waking up in the dead of night and seeing the college kids next door with all their lights illuminating from every window. It was eerie- it was not how things were supposed to be . . . night was for peace, for rest, for safety from the constant humming of the world. It was a world I knew very little of, a world that now wakes me; a world that sometimes is only silenced by whisky and bleeding words onto paper.
I have spent so much of my life crafting words. College essays, legal briefs, hours talking to people at work and everywhere else . . . Sometimes it seems words are so cheap. Sometimes I feel like I keep putting them out there to stay afloat. Sometimes I go back and pinpoint the times I think they helped and the numerous times I knew words could do nothing to fix what was broken.
Countless times I have been that person with the lone light shining in a neighborhood of houses full of restful darkness. It is a little bit funny as of late what wakes me – an intermingling of that which sank me and which saved me.
People are so consumed with an apparently sudden awareness that life is fragile, that it is ephemeral. What woke me at first was that shock – 26 years old with an autopsy report of a child under 6 months old on my desk. What wakes me now is the knowledge that it isn’t shocking; it is a reality.
What saved me – what calms my startled awakening – is that I found a person who told me it was ok I couldn’t save the world. The man who wrote to me that what he loved about me was how much I loved our families and friends, how I would cry at the airport when I saw touching reunions of soldiers returning to their families when I was there to pick him up from work trips, that I wanted to help people.
It has been ages since he wrote me those words. Years and years that have been filled with so many changes, so many new challenges and blessings, so many distances and reunions. It is still that card that absolutely gets me through the shadows, through the insecurities, through the doubts, through every single broken heart. What saved me was love. Not the storybook romance, not the picture perfect portrait on the wall, not the lie that all things will be easy. What helps me to settle in every night, even those nights I am shaken awake by the world’s troubles, when I stir with a need to compose my thoughts and words, is the wordless bond between two people who have seen the vilest side of the world and decided to make something beautiful instead.