here we are

Water must boil to purify.

I wrote it down a month ago in my planner, on a ripped page tattooed with coffee spots and toddler scribbles. The weather was turning, and 2020 was feeling particularly menacing – the kind of rude you don’t bother correcting because these days especially, breath is not for wasting. There was spaghetti, uncooked, and writhing bubbles in a pot on the stove. Water must boil to purify, I thought, and then I wrote it down, because unpacking before bedtime is a fool’s errand.

Since then, I have come back to it many times – the phenomenon of transferred energy and awakened molecules, of buildup and burning and liquid / gas separation spurred by energy buildup (did you know? I did not) and maybe you see the writing on the wall here, but galvanized molecules must expound.

You’ve felt it too. The tension, large and small. In the news, where strangers speak and folklore festers, surpassed in enigma only by the scrolling plank walk of your iPhone. You’ve felt it in your workplace, where conversations have grown tepid, in holiday gatherings that should / shouldn’t / will / won’t take place. A pot of water dropped by nervous hands, a fiery calibration of empathy and conviction that looks like singed toes and feels like sodden socks. I’ve granted it entry (so have you) with subtle, ill-placed oversight, and so its energy is now my energy, its heat now your heat. You and I, we’re simmering, friend, and I think it’s the only way.

Before this year, how easy it was to say one thing and live another, to trade truth for convenience and confrontation for reputation. They were always there though, weren’t they, those itchy underpinnings? You know what I mean. Private anger, public silence – masters of self-betrayal. Status quo, always, lest the feeling return to our limbs. Ice water, painful only when the numb wears off.

Not anymore. Now, with the distant news in our not-so-distant living rooms, we are thawing, aching with frostbite. Our molecules have begun to stir, and we must confront what we’ve always known but never said – that there is no forward in a frozen casket, no becoming without heat, painful like weighted quips and cancelled plans, sifted precedence and fraying ties. What, though, of these fractures in our own chests, the ones we put there ourselves? So we separate, vaporize, spread our charred wings and fly like misted bats out of a frigid hell. We say the things we never said and sit with the settling ashes, fight the fights we never fought and massage our blistered skin, neglected long enough.

We cut curriculum, delete Facebook, pour whiskey at eight o’ clock and drink it in a scalding shower to make ourselves feel something, anything at all, because after the burn is relief like stripped birch and infant skin that makes us wonder what we ever loved so much about the ice. Permanence, perhaps, or the illusion of such, although it didn’t matter then and doesn’t still, even for those who choose it forever. We can move now, of sole importance, and so we do.

The weary word rejoices.

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