Did you ever play that game as a kid when you would repeat a word word word word word word word word word word word word word word word word word word word word word until you suddenly realized you no longer understood the sound of it still coming out of your mouth, unable to stop the trance state of the tongue its own muscle, its own mind, slipped from out of your consciousness, now uncontrolled, a living medium you did not know you channeled? Do you remember the terror of losing the information, the cognitive recognition needed to discern the product of your mouth as a word and not just a sound, the way it made you lightheaded, like playing the flute for an hour straight while ignoring the size of your lungs, the way you could not feel your eyes but you knew they were not working right, the way you thought you were seeing yourself from the viewpoint of somebody else in the class. Do you remember how scary it was to think you could no longer speak? To think you could no longer understand your own tongue, their words, the writing? The way it gripped your tiny pre-scoliosis spine with something hot and morose, something like the gravity of a sadness experienced for the first time, like the first time you thought about how sad it would be to lose a parent, or how sad it would be to be bullied for your body, or how sad it would be to lose your intellect. Children's fears, reduced to private sobs on the bus, quietude on the playground, in your room when you allowed yourself to think about the sad things you never knew, before you would grow wiser to know other sads that came in shades of blue with names like sex and money and purpose.
Grief was a guilty feeling for blue-toned imagination, a guilty pleasure when you picked up a paperback in which you knew the main character would be mourning by the end; you wanted to, too. To know how. How the opening of Titanic made you cry harder every time you saw it, on repeat, how you bawled when Forrest talked to Jenny's grave. How you grew angry with fat chokes in your throat when the Special Education kids were mocked by your peers - and how you choked up the same way imagining what if you had been in Special Ed, what would have been your parents' lives. You cried thinking about the kids who other kids would say had no friends. You cried thinking about their mothers trying to plan a birthday party. You cried thinking about children with terminal illnesses and imagined how doctors relayed the news of the end.
There is a life for the living after a death, but you didn't know it then, as a child, so you developed an attraction to reasons to feel deeply in loss, to cry that special silent wail of a truly grievous, emotionally ruptured soul so young you didn't know the meaning of vanity.
Did you ever play that game as a kid, the one where you invoked your saddest thought to cry the special silent wail in front of your mirror, to study your face in the feeling of ecstatic release and unbearable containment, convinced that crying made your hair curly in the way you liked to wear it to school.
I recognize these sads now not as sads at all but as empathy.
I had reasons other than death for immense sadness, when I was learning my emotions from my colors, before I learned the sads in shades of blue when I was older, the ones named for the capitalized names of people. Some I still carry with me, like house keys.
I think most often about playing that game as a kid, the one when you would lose your words, when you lost your language, when you no longer understood the sounds you cast out.
I recognize it now not as sadness but as construction.