I have so many words stacked inside of my chest, quivering next to my live heartbeat. Perhaps that is why when my heart beats, I feel it flutter like a butterfly trapped in a cardboard box. These words sit sometimes stacked in my throat, and I worry if I don’t speak them they will remain trapped there and choke me in my sleep. I’ve never been good at biting my tongue. I fear I will never get all the words out that they will stage lodged inside of my chest (the butterfly in the box syndrome again) for the rest of my life. I have so many life experiences; I have so many memories. I told him I forgot a lover’s name and have taken to nicknaming him “Navy” so I don’t feel so much shame for not recalling his name. Some memories sift through my fingertips like white sand or water, but others stay lodged permanently inside of my chest.
Some tell me look how far I’ve come, look how much progress I’ve made. Those people gesture grandly and point out the things I take for granted because moving forward is not always progress. Others say I am still so stilted. That life has passed me by, and I am frozen on my couch, my memories swollen inside of me.
I have rushed into a silver bullet in the sky and touched down thousands of miles away after a man with hair like bristles of a toothbrush and sunken-in cheeks of a fighter or of Brad Pitt in a movie to make him look world-weary, a fighter, inverted the extroverted. On those long East Coast summer nights, I searched for the love of a girl who now holds hands with a man we once giggled about in the dark satin of the night. I sat in diners where boys passed me notes about “love”. Always love with a question mark, never a statement. I have remained forcibly glued to the ground as my grandmother’s breath ran ragged until it ran no longer. I have remained forcibly glued to her side, feeding her the ice chips she could no longer swallow and applying chap-stick to her dry, peeling lips. I have fled those memories so many times, I wonder what rattles around my brain and keeps me awake when all I want is rest. What butterfly stays trapped in my chest and refuses to emerge all these years later? Is it a gossamer-winged butterfly or swallow-tail?
So many words stacked inside of my heart, and yet I am petrified of being heard. I would rather swallow my voice some days than to be heard for what it is, for what I truly have to say. I was told to keep a smile on my face, to not air my dirty laundry. No matter what, no matter how awful I feel, no one wants to see my bad days. To frown would be to let others in on the game. I’ve never been one to wave the white flag of surrender, but sometimes, I wonder how much I have given up to get to this point. Sometimes, I fight the help off because with my last breath, I will be defending my independence, struggling to prove I don’t need anyone’s help.
It took me a few years to learn that life is teamwork, that we’re all stuck in this boat together, and if we’re drowning, we’re going to latch arms and braid ourselves together out of the storm. Yet they keep telling me I am still here for a reason, that my mistakes and mishaps have provided me with a road map of which way to go and which way to not go down. Now, if only I could remember which path is the good one and which the evil.
There is a reason I have all these words stacked up inside of me. There is a reason the butterfly hasn’t fluttered out of this cardboard box yet. The hope is I still have someone to save.
If you hear me louder than usual, my voice more clear, my fight clearly more of a battle than a war, it’s because I am tired of waking up with my throat raw from the words desperately trying to strangle me in my sleep. It’s because these butterflies finally burst free from their cardboard kingdom.