Photo by Dana Graves
I love Marcus ??
That's what is printed in round, girlish letters on the top of the built-in dresser in the guest room here at the cottage we're renting this fall. The tiny room with its sloped ceiling used to be the bedroom of a young girl who is now a teenager and whose parents sold this wee cottage to move to a bigger house across the island. The signs of her childhood, though, are still imprinted upon the room: the pencil slashes on the door jamb, marked with months and years to measure her growth; the caterpillar coat rack bolted to the wall; and little bits and pieces of graffiti that the cottage's new owners have not yet covered up with a fresh coat of paint. I hope they never do. On the ceiling's slope above the bed is a tiny pink heart, and, of course, there are those words on the dresser. She loved Marcus. And then she didn't. And then, as it goes in life, she wasn't sure whom she loved.
When I was a girl, around the age of what is now called a tween, I used to write the name of my current crush on the wall inside my closet: I love Bryan George Jeff Bryan David Joey Bryan. Four facts about me can be deduced from this habit:
- I was fickle. Yes, I loved a lot of boys.
- I really, really loved Bryan.
- I felt a strong need to write down what I was feeling. It wasn't enough to just feel the emotion. Writing it down made it seem more real, more powerful to me.
- I didn't particularly want other people to see what I had written--at least not about those feelings. I loved to write as a kid and I liked people to read what I wrote, but this was different. This was magic, secret, special, as visceral as painting on cave walls. There was a bit of witchcraft to it, almost like casting a spell.
Much has changed since those days. I'm no longer quite so fickle; I've had a crush on the same boy for nearly two decades. I no longer love Bryan. I also no longer write things in my closet. I do, though, believe in the power of written words to conjure up truths about ourselves and our lives. When I first saw those words the girl had written on her dresser, I felt a deep kinship with her. My own heart ached thinking Marcus had broken her heart or she had broken his, and then she was left with that empty unknown feeling that hurts, but is also rich with possibility. Her words were secret, hers, and yet now they were mine, too.
Each time I pass by the dresser, I always glance at those words. They remind me of why I write poetry. With each poem I write I give a secret piece of myself to the page. At first, like those words in the closet, it is mine alone, but eventually it belongs to anyone who chooses to read it. It is our secret.