Sometimes I am afraid I write too much about the Valley, talk too much about it.
I'm sure people get sick of me, you know. I'm sure I come off as strange.
I'm afraid that I'm so used to saying beautiful things about the Valley, that I can't see it for what it is any more. I'm afraid of the next time I go - what if it isn't everything I hold it to be?
I'm afraid of thinking about it too much, to be honest. I'm afraid of putting it down in words and images and sighs, because I don't want to steal away any of its magic.
And then some days, when I'm stealing away the last hour of sleep in bed, a liquid ache settles in my bones. What is this, prose or poetry? I don't know. I'm afraid of being overly sentimental - and I'm afraid that someday, I won't be. A liquid ache settles down in me, and my body hurts to be so far. So far in both space and time. My body hurts, I lie in bed and hold it to myself, my knees my arms my wavering heart. I'm on the precipice, somewhere important, it's a boundary a border an edge. I might cry. I might cry, and I don't know where these tears come from, and I try to pin it down, travel deep down the lines of my body to remember.
When I start to remember, that's when I ache.
I sit in class sometimes, paying attention, writing notes. In a cold windowless classroom, I might turn back for a second to listen to someone. They've raised their hand, they're talking about Shakespeare, they're talking about Hume and how he contradicts Plato, they're talking about how power distribution is the foundation of all political activity. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to learn. I see myself grow every day. But when I turn back, sometimes, I realize that I'm not there, I'm sitting in the library on a magnificent golden afternoon. The desk is under a window, and the window looks out onto a pond in the administrative block. I can see artwork on the softboard outside, and everybody who passes by and sees me smiles. I smile and wave. There are pink lilies in the pond, and a frangipani tree. Delicate white flowers have fallen on lilypads, on the gravel around the pond, and in the water itself. They float. Next to me are books which opened up so much to me, so many ways of thinking. These books are the reason I'm in this college right now, genuinely excited by Plato and Hume. My bag is on the floor, some books in the damp sunlight on the desk. I'm sure I'm working, but I rest for just a minute. I float.
One of my hiding places was between two shelves in the library, on the floor. Light filtered through shelves and dusty books, and nobody saw me there unless they looked. There were poetry books there, and I curled up in a corner, a part of the wall the straw mat the white shelves the books themselves. Pablo Neruda and Vikram Seth, Eliot and Wordsworth, obscure German and Native American poets - they all sat with me, silent. They let me discover them, devour them; in turn, I let myself be devoured by them. I let myself be devoured by their words, and then by the delicately worn books themselves, incurably romantic objects. I let myself by devoured by the library (curled up in corners so I was a part of it) and by the forest that surrounded it. I have been devoured by the people, the trees, the sky of that school.
I don't know what to do with the great swirling sea inside of me.
Today morning in bed, I felt like being kind to myself. I let myself remember. And when I let myself relive whole days in the Valley, everything comes alive: mornings where I wake up myself with the birds and the dawn floating in through my windows, evenings where I detached myself from the laughter and conversation to look up and watch the sky, Orion winking at me through the clouds. There's too much to remember, and I know that forest like the back of my hand. Every winding path, I can trace it on myself. My footsteps remember the uneven terrain, the steps, the rocks.
All my life, I will write about the Valley. I will write about the Valley even if I mistrust my writing, because that is all I can do when it hits me like a punch in the gut. It's all I can do when I look back and remember days filled with magic that seems unreal from where I am now, from where all the world is. It's all I can do because I am exhilarated when I think of the Valley, and I am unbearably sad, and Sylvia Plath told me that I will be okay as long as I can wrench a piece of hurt and beauty out of my life and put it on paper, that I will never crawl back home broken and defeated if I can make stories out of my heartbreak. I will write about the Valley because from where I am in my life, those seem like the happiest days that I will know. I don't know why - was it the people, the trees, the sky? Was it what those rambling paths awoke in me?
I will write about the Valley all my life, and I will search for ways to go back. I will go back, I know it, but it will never be the same, and that nostalgia (straight from its Greek derivative, "the pain of an old wound") will sit with me, both heavy and unbearably light, for all my life. There will never be enough to say about it. I will make paintings when I miss it, and fashion critical thinking essays justifying why Valley is home - although the answer is here already, solid and tangible, sitting inside me and smiling.
There is a liquid ache in my bones my voice my mouth my hands. There is a liquid ache, and I might spill over. How to explain that this is not rhetoric, this is something real and alive inside of me, a fire and a flood all at once? Perhaps on somebody else's tongue, these words will represent only pretense, artifice. On my tongue, these words are a desperate plea to the gods of expression. On my tongue, these words are all I have. Pause. Breathe. I have to go for class now. I won't let myself think of Valley for a few days - too much of me is ragged and fluttering in the wind right now. Let me gather myself, so I can begin again.