Through your mind’s eye & soul
A walk in darkness
Feeling for light
Bumping your toe on the hard surface of determination
Toppled over onto the sun
Basking in the rays, as light shines through you and into the people unseen
Forming words with the softness of clouds
Speaking for the silenced
Healing wounds dripping like a rainstorm
Bellowing the joy and pain from deep within
“You write? Describe it to me.”
Oh, just amateur.
It sounded an awful lot like “tell me about your day”⸺the person who asks it knows just as well as the person who’s being asked that nobody actually cares.
I felt a strong desire to brush off his request, even when the tiny flame sitting between us stuck its head out from above the rim to judge me.
But then I saw the glint in his eyes and I just couldn’t bring myself to snuff it out.
So toasty and warm.
“It’s clingy, like a flame. Kinda like how this tiny little flame keeps clinging onto the wick even though it knows it’s gonna go out in a bit"
I must’ve been feeling petty that day. Petty enough to get back at a flame for judging me.
"I write my words to be sharp and clingy like a hook. I’ll do anything to hold on to eyes and ears, anything to crawl my words into minds so that I can be heard. I’m usually too tired to do it out loud, so I let my hands weave my words, haha”
Somehow I found myself getting excited about this question, this question I never would have bothered to answer before. Somehow I felt like he was soaking in my words the way the cinnamon candle scent was soaking into my clothes. Somehow his presence had waxed my words so well they slipped out easier than butter.
And when I saw the flame dancing in his smiling eyes, I knew my words had reached him.
The guy sitting in front of me had that dirty blonde hair that was messy and tousled. He had those piercing hazel eyes that could stop time and entrance you.
"I didn't know you liked to write," I say after his proclamation of love for writing and poetry. "I like writing, too." He props his elbows up on the table. His expression was kind, and he looked like he wanted hear my version of a proclamation of love.
The restaurant they were at, Ivy Vines, was a rather fancy restaurant, but with a more edgy feel to it. It had sleek chairs, delicious food, and lights strung everywhere. Darin, the date, said it was really good a few days ago.
We matched on a dating app, and we had been talking for hours, non-stop.
"Really?" He raises in eyebrow. "What kind of writing do you do?"
"Fiction. Sometimes romance. Kind of along those lines," I reply.
Darin smiles, his lips turning almost pinker. "Well," he says. "Describe your writing for me." My mouth presses into a line. Brows knit. "Please? For me?"
I laughed. "Okay, okay." It took a few moments to figure out what to say, but after I opened my mouth, the words rolled off my tongue. "My writing is almost like a dream, and a nightmare. I write a lot about mental health, because it was one of my close friends real life nightmares. And, it's important for people to learn about.
"Mental health is something very real. Something that a lot of people experience at one point in their life. It's important for others to know how people feel, but sometimes it can comfort those struggling to hear something that they relate to, that they understand.
"I write romances that I would want, based on people who have been nice to me in the past. Once upon a time, there was this boy. He meant a lot to me, but he abandoned me and never spoke to me again. When I write about love and all the romances, I think about him, just how much I loved him, and just how much I hurt after him.
"The fiction is just my personal choice. I love reading YA fiction, and it's really fun to world and character build. I pull ideas from my favorite books, and intertwine and twist them until they become something new, something for me. Something I can write about.
"All it takes it just one spark, and I can write for a long time. It's hard to keep that flame alive, but if you nurture it, an entire book can come out from the flames. And if it does die, a better version can come from the ashes.
"Writing can sometimes seem like an escape, but also as a way to communicate and reach others who are feeling, living, dreaming just like me."
Can’t ChatGPT Do It?
I smile wryly.
“My writing? Short form. Six words to about two hundred. Mostly. Sometimes more.”
He grins, flush with disbelief. I’m dazzled by the green eyes.
I arch an eyebrow, pull a corner of my mouth up, and half-shrug. Maybe too many tattoos?
“Doesn’t seem that hard. Can‘t ChatGPT do it?”
His once intoxicating cologne now cloys at my throat.
“Got honorable mention in a online contest. A human won,“ I respond, hoping to conceal my jealousy. “I like my stories to provoke thought and creativity. I ask about control and self-determination. I ponder a future where humanity is gone, replaced by self-aware androids.”
”In six words.” That he used the incredulous indicative instead of an innocent interrogative burns my ass raw. I notice wrinkles as he smirks.
“Are you being like this because you wanna show me you write like you talk?”
“Can you do it?”
“Can I do what?”
“Can you come up with a six word story. Now. About our date.”
I twist up my smile, summoning my meanest muse. Well, he wants proof.
“Less is more. Doubt? Disinterest? Done.”
I stand, push my chair in, and leave without looking at him.
I take a shaky breath as he waits
Papers of answers fill my mind as I contemplate
"My writing is an impulse"
The words bring up the speed of my pulse
I look up, expecting him to look repulsed
Instead he tilts his head for me to finish
I continue my deliverance
"My writing is a resistance
To my own regrets
To the world
To my own mind
My writing is a hive for the words I could never say to my own spite
Because all the words I could never say are the beginning ideas for what I will write"
Probably too dramatic.
"Well, my writing is probably too dramatic. Sometimes inspired by ADHD-fueled research sessions where I get 3 hours into picking apart theology, history, or some subset of nerd culture. I once wrote an entire DND campaign based on lore around Merlin and 'night mares.' My favorite piece was a research paper about 'little vittles' where pilots flew candy to Berlin after WWII. When a piece is finally written, I pick through it until it's intelligible and clearly written. I put in way too much work and my writing usually ends up being some sort of rant, but I enjoy it!"
Before you were formed in the womb, I knew you
I've only known you for a week.
But I loved you already.
You were to be the baby of all my babies.
I was meant to carry you for the next 8 months and get to know you better. I was meant to hold you in sweet motherhood's embrace: to stare in wonder at your sweet face on the day of your birth. You were going to have so many friends. Your brother and sisters were going to love you beyond measure. You were to be our little one. I couldn't wait to carry you alongside your growing cousin, and I was so thrilled to surprise your auntie by telling her I was carrying her babies' Birthday buddy.
I felt so confident of the life you would live.
I spent hours searching for your name, but none seemed to be just right. Maybe a part of me knew then that I would never hold you. You see, sweet baby, I have lost you already. And I miss you so much. I miss the dreams I dared to dream for you. I miss all you would have been... All you could have been.
This morning, I got up, and I knew you were gone. I called the doctor and scheduled an appointment, hoping I'd been mistaken somehow. This morning your sister, who we'd not told about you, prayed for you. She prayed for her little baby brother. She thanked God for you. I am so sorry you won't get to meet her here. I wish there were some way to change it all... To give you that life I'd hoped, but alas, sweet baby, I cannot decide these things.
I know that Jesus is holding you now, and you're happy. I am so glad you are with him there.
But oh, my sweet baby with wings, I miss you already.
What does my gut tell me? I asked myself. Always have to go with my gut.
Prebiotics rule my diet. They feed my gut bacteria their delicious and nutritious fiber. This re-equilibrates the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria in my intestines. It behooves me to keep the ratio lopsided toward the good ones, lest I regret what my gut tells me.
First things first--to know one is to be one.
PART ONE: THE SCIENCE
There are 100 trillion bacteria in my gut microbiome. We humans evolved with bacteria--a symbiotic relationship in which the whole was better than the addition of the parts. There are 86 billion neurons in my brain, the same as is estimated for the number of stars in the Milky Way.
Between one and two billion years ago, we evolved batteries to run our bodies. They generate our energy and without them we'd only be spineless, amorphous sludge that the sea foam washes up on the shore.
These battery/dynamos are our mitochondria, which originated from cellular capture of bacteria, engulfed presumedly for lunch, but which escaped into our cells' cytoplasm. Somehow, they eroded through the food storage vesicles into which they were initially engulfed. As such, we are hybrid creatures with foreign genetic instruction sets. Our bodies can talk with bacteria; they talk back, too. We should listen.
Our self-awareness as sentient beings comes--not from the number of neurons in our big, evolved brains--but due to the interconnectedness among them. While there are as many neurons in our brains as there are stars in the Milky Way, there are as many possible interconnections among them as there are particles in the universe.
So in counting the 100 trillion bacteria in my gut, I can only imagine the number of possible connections among them. I wonder: what is the magic number of interconnections from which sentience arises--self-awareness, feelings, and the pursuit of well-being?
I submit there are enough in my small intestines to represent a whole quorum; I could miss out on some great dialogue and sage advice were I to be deaf to their consultations or, worse, refuse to listen.
But I choose to listen. They advise wisely.
PART TWO: FIRST IMPRESSION
She seemed too good to be true. We met at Barnes & Noble in the philosophy section, which in itself was a good sign. One conversation later on Camus and our first date was set. We took brunch at a vegan diner, which wasn't as good a sign for me as the philosophy section, but, I mean, look at her!
Dark, flowing hair with deep blue eyes, and a subtly dark complexion that hinted of mixed race somewhere down the line. Sexy in the way she tossed her head--in that oh-so-feminine way.
She laughed at all my jokes. Even got them. Light conversation revealed she had gotten a tattoo with her female lover at the time, which excited me, but I don't know why. Also, I saw no tattoo, even though she was wearing a sleeveless dress. Must have been a discrete location, which also excited me.
She was a screenwriter of some repute, which meant that I, a freelance copywriter, was trading up. She earned her living with talent and dedication. From the way she talked about herself, she owed no one anything. She was evidently a strong woman. In fact, I think I saw a small pistol in her purse that had fallen open where it sat at her feet. Skinny ankles. I was a sucker for skinny ankles. Not so much small pistols, but the ankles trumped that.
She was cool, confident, and self-actuated. She seemed to be as intrigued by me, as well.
PART THREE: THE CONVERSATION
My gut instinct, though, was that she really was too good to be true. I listened to my gut.
Beware! I see an endless life of misery with her.
How do you know? I ask my gut.
Look, you will always be an also-ran in her life--to her hotsy-totsy Hollywood friends, to her secret lovers--male and female, to her strength and to her convictions. I hope you vote Republican.
Depends on the candidate, I say.
And you see that little lady pistol she's got? Do you know she's used it before? Yes, and on better people than you.
I beg your pardon.
Yep, you're gonna be miserable. You're gonna hate her more than she's gonna hate you, which is hard to imagine. And what are you gonna get for it? A little lady bullet right to your big, manly, evolved brain, that's what!
How do you know all this? I ask.
I'm a hundred trillion guys in your gut. That's 1 x 10 to the fourteenth, if you're counting. I only need 1 x 10 to the tenth to cogito-ergo-sum. And we're all talking to each other in here. How many orders of magnitude do you think I need for telepathy? Or even clairvoyance? I have orders of magnitude to spare, my dear host. That's how.
Oh, I thought. Then, I guess I should go with my gut, then.
But I'm still a little confused. I mean, you're actually seeing into the future.
1 x 10 to the fourteenth.
Yea, yea, I get that, I assure my gut. What I want to know is while you seem to know way beyond into my future, you seem to know hers, too.
She's got a gut, too, y'know. Do you think I'm talking with just you?
Oh, I see. Well, I understand how getting their point of view can be very informative.
Very. By the way, do you think you might try to score with her anyway?
Sure, I told my gut. Why not? One night stand, then it's over. What's the harm in that?
You should know what she thinks of you, first. You're lucky she hasn't shot you yet.
I went with my gut. Paid the bill, walked her out of the diner, then ran like hell. But not as fast as she did.