I collect words. I hoard them, greedy, in notebook margins, along the edges of drawings, on the backs of used envelopes. I collect words in marker along my arms when I have nowhere else to put them, I repeat them in my head, trace them in the air until I can land them safely on paper or use the last of my phone battery to scramble out a message to myself.
When I have them, I hold them close to me, echo them back to myself when the silence or the noise is too much, stitch along the seams of my heart, stretch them out to craft poetry or forge worlds. Under my hands, one word becomes three becomes a lifetime of echoes.
A girl I knew once told me we had Greedy Eyes, as we climbed up the side of a mountain, thousands of miles from home. She told me we had Greedy Eyes, and no matter how much we saw, it would never be enough.
I repeat it to myself when I see something beautiful, and I thank her for giving them to me. When I lean close to the iridescent shell of a tiny snail, I thank her for them. When ice layers, so thick on the limbs of trees that they bow closer to me, I thank her for them. When embers glow hot while the night sets in, tracking swirling color across my vision, I thank her. Greedy Eyes.
I want those words etched into my obituary: She had greedy eyes.
A girl I love told me once that I was a part of her Soul Family. Something she doesn’t know about me is that I have a fear of being left behind. That the people I love will replace me when I become too distant, or too much work, or lose myself again in the Dark.
I’m far from most of the people I love now, and they’re making new friends and falling in love with new people, and I thank her for those words. Soul Family. Important. Irreplaceable. I tell myself it’s okay, and we’ll be fine. We are a Soul Family.
When I am at my loneliest, I thank her for them.
A boy that would become my life partner once watched me fall apart over a plate of cafeteria salad, and told me that they believed in me.
The life I choose is not an easy path to take. It’s full of uncertainty and loneliness and doubt. Every decision I make seems to take me farther from the comfort that I desperately crave. But they said it once, I believe in you. And they say it again and again, I believe in you.
I thank them for those words when I am struggling. When I am lost. When I’m having a hard time finding something to believe in. I can relax for a moment, because someone else is doing the believing for me.
The sister who would become my best friend over and over throughout our lives once looked at me for a long time and said, Promise me you won’t do it again. At the time, I couldn’t. I don’t make promises I don’t think I can keep, and so I couldn’t.
But every time since then, I’ve thanked her for those words, because I didn’t. Not again. I think of my sister and her words, and I do something else, instead. I think of our lifetimes and our scars and those words, and I thank her, and I do something else, instead.
A girl whose friendship I cherish, whose music fills me with love and myth and a longing for a grassy knoll somewhere deep in a forest, once said to me, You’ve inspired me. No one had ever said that to me before.
I write because I have to. I create because my hands ache with colors and my soul aches to put them somewhere. If I stop, I lose myself.
But she said that I inspire her, and so I take my secret words, my passion-drenched phrases, my colors, and I share them. I didn’t know that I could be that kind of person. I thank her when I feel stuck. When I try for the fourth year to make a living doing what I love. When I feel like a whisper among the megaphones. I thank her, because if I can inspire someone like her, someone who creates such beauty in the world, maybe I can to that, too.
I collect words. Some of them are beautiful by themselves—greedy eyes. Soul Family. Some of them seem simple, letters strung together in a similar way so many countless times before. Pebbles on the beach. But they’re my pebbles, my words. They were given to me to hold, and I keep them, polish them, fortify myself with them.
I collect words, fill notebooks with them. Let me share some with you.