A Shared Metaphor...


 A stairwell.

It was not the beach wood, or the way sand was ground in some areas, shells within others that had intrigued me so. It was not the way the wood changed as the stairs went higher, from beach, to oak, to birch, to cherry, the shapes of bird feet and sunflowers lining each stage as if it were built for my feet and my feet alone....

            Here I was allowed to walk barefoot; toes painted yellow, like the sun.

            Alas, what intrigued me was the scene each step portrayed, and how all my deepest, longing desires and aspirations lined the walls upward. I found step one, my bare toes hit the weathered floor, the wood warm instead of cool as wood is meant to be. As I did so, the wall represented photos of ten individual children, wearing wide grins and laughing wildly as if they had nothing to fear in the entire world. Some of them leaned over red monkey bars. Others built giant towers of multicolored waffle blocks with plastic hammers and innocent dignity. There were Nemo movie days, the carpet covered in popcorn, the ice cream days, where frozen cherry milk was a must, and even the harder days, where the moon is known to be full amongst even the sunniest sky.

            Amidst the photos were pictures of rainbows, friends, and trucks drawn by tiny hands. On the bottom of each drawing, a name was written in scrawled crayon of all different colors, and I became aware that it had been me who had taught the children how to write their own identity. As I came to this recollection, I began to feel overpowered, as if there were more for me to accomplish and do within the world.

            I found I was able to climb higher.

            This step had a Dean’s List certificate, an associate’s degree, years of report cards to be proud of, and several written essays about the human mind, aphasia, and cognitive behavioral therapies as it can be applied to existentialism. They were my own. There was pride I never knew existed.

            I found I was able to climb higher.

            Here there were several drafts of novels, some written in a fourteen-year old language, others with adult representation. Some books had been written with typewriter, others with a computer, and even some with a pencil and colored crayons; a four-year old’s technique. Two major novels were accompanied by two half novels and several books filled with poetry, all of which added to hundreds of thousands of words that could never be replaced by another human being. I felt a great love for these words, and the characters they represented as if they were my own family. The Beginning…Like Winter Bones…No Cars in Heaven….Where The Blue Halves Meet….all a part of my existence and what it meant to be myself.

            I found I was able to climb higher.

            Lining the wall as I climbed, were professional photos; of children, animals, flowers with just the right amount of light and human hands. There were also paintings, unfinished sketches, and high school doodles to summarize days of artistic tinkering. The photos began to grow higher in number, showing me the many places I’d been; Great cities, lake islands, beaches, gateways.

            I climbed higher.

            Music began to play from nowhere at all; pianos, saxophones, violins, and guitars all with their own song, their own story to tell, each embracing my own hands as their judgment of the world. There were other passages of music that was not my own, but that of individuals most frequently within my passion.

            The stairwell seemed sturdy, and seemed headed for a great virtue, yet along the way, I began to notice cracks in my stairs. Halfway up, hanging on the wall, was a medical ID necklace.


            I took a step back.

            With a small, determined smile, I shook my head, brushing off the name and ignoring the medical necklace that now weighted my neck.

            I climbed a few steps higher.

            Sitting on a step of birch was a green bottle of pills. I could see that these bottles lined the rest of my steps. An eyesore they were, a disturbance they were, and yet they would not fade. Whether or not I wished them away, they remained. I picked up the bottle and took a few pills.

            I took two steps back, unwillingly, unprepared.

            With a small dizziness, I could see the steps begin to tremble, and as I felt more aware of the familiarity of things, I was forced to take more steps back. I heard no music. Instead of novels, I saw empty pages. Instead of long, thought up essays, I saw one lined responses. Instead of children smiling, they were solemn, lost, wondering what they did wrong. I watched as all of the things I worked hard for, and loved, and held close to my heart, blurred away with the distance between me and them, feeling that one day I could climb the stairs again, but wondering if my accomplishments would still be usable then, or would they be weathered, dusty, forgotten. They began to seem as antique watches, ticks fading, ticks lost.

            Crying, I continued to take steps back, regardless if I wanted to or not. I was not in control. My body was in control. The heavy necklace was in control. The medicine was in control. I began to forget the me I used to be. I began to forget the things I saw on the stairs. I mourned the loss of things that could have been, that never were.

            On the bottom of the steps, I sat down and wept, my toes purple now instead of yellow, and that sun, that wretched blinding sun, it crept higher in the sky above and danced downward, mocking, yet loving, hurting, yet warming. I wondered what had been on the steps that I’d never reached. I wondered what was at the very top. Surely my accomplishments fulfilled, surely my children, surely my legacy. Surely up there, books of mine lined shelves in stores. Surely up there, I was helping teenagers, and walking across a college stage. Surely up there, I was who I was always meant to be.

            I looked up at the person next to me, realizing he had been there all along, climbing upward, and despite it all, climbed downward with me. No questions asked. Would he be angry? Would he be pondering his own meaning at the top of the stairs? Surely he would leave and go it alone.

            Instead, he smiled, and the smile was more intriguing than the stairs before us, which now seemed endless and ever changing. He handed me a pair of sunglasses so that I may still feel the warmth of sunlight and would not have to surrender to darkness.

            “You know,” he said, “you look awfully beautiful in purple.”

            The weight of my identity lessened.

            I gained strength to climb once again.



at Sat, 04/16/2011 - 4:03pm | 11 views | 0 comments