Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Expression of Self

Some say writing is the ultimate form of self-expression. Language is the means in which we communicate. Thought, feeling, description, mood--all of these described with the written word. Indeed, a writer could describe other artwork in her writing.

Picture, if you will, a modern symphony hall, where acoustically there is not a bad seat in the house. Off to the left in the upper balcony is a woman. The seat next to her is empty, empty as she feels.

The beginning of the day brought her divorce. Her already shaky marriage did not survive the stress of her miscarriage. This morning, instead of holding her one-year-old daughter to her breast, she holds divorce papers.

Her forced expression betrays her inner turmoil. Her long black dress hugging her elegant and young frame is as dark as her thoughts.

Until, that is, the symphony starts and the music surrounds her. She closes her eyes. Her mind empties of melancholy. Her face relaxes, her hands go slack. No longer does she feel the non-weight of the missing wedding ring.

She does not cry throughout the entire performance.

In the third row, right in the middle, is a man in an Italian suit, looking all the world as if he was born to dress up and attend the symphony.

The seat beside him is empty. This man is a widower. Today was his wife's birthday. She always loved the symphony and dreamed of season tickets to sit in the best seats for each performance. He always thought the overpriced symphony was not worth the hard-earned money, the audience composed of snobs and elitists, the music not that great, everything a bore, really.

Oh, how he wishes he could take those feelings back. How he would trade anything, anything at all, to have his wife at his side, finally listening to the music in the seat she always wanted to sit.

She was young, and the breast cancer surprised them in its sudden viciousness. It spread throughout her petite body unchecked. She fought, but in the end, it consumed her. She died in the man's arms, her last breath a slow moan of pain and anguish.

He has been alone for an entire year. He closes his eyes and can picture his wife sitting next to him, smiling, leaning into him. Perhaps holding his hand. She was always mushy like that.

The man does not move during the intermission. He does not open his eyes. By the time the music starts again, he is crying silent tears. No one notices in the darkness of the hall.

After the performance, the woman walks down the street to clear her head. The music is gone, and she realizes that going to the symphony was a mistake. The sheer beauty of the sound simply highlighted her despair.

In the divorce, the woman insisted on keeping half her husband's guns. The husband, the judge and the two lawyers thought she was being spiteful. If they only knew the real reason. If they only knew. She doesn't know a lot about guns.

But she knows enough.

Her all-consuming thoughts betray her, literally, as the heel from her left shoe catches in a missed break in the sidewalk. She falls. Her shoe stays put. Her ankle twists away with her body. Sharp pain lances from her leg as she hits the ground.

She has landed in muck; dirt and mud from a recent rainfall that collected around the break in the sidewalk.

The woman sits up, wincing at the pain. Her dress now torn, dirty and ruined. How she loved that dress. Then she feels monumentally stupid for bemoaning a dress when in a mere hour she would not even be breathing. The utter loneliness of it all washes over her, and the damnable tears start. In seconds she is sobbing into her hands.

But in a moment she is not on the sidewalk, bur rather above it. Her addled thoughts catch up to her surroundings. Someone has picked her up. Right up off the sidewalk. A man. A man in an expensive suit and red, puffy eyes. He carries her halfway down the block to a bench at an empty bus stop. Her arms go around his neck instinctively.

The man goes to put the woman on the bench but she doesn't let go of his neck. The unexpected awkwardness throws him off-balance. Before he also falls on the sidewalk, he sits on the bench with the woman on his lap.

"Are you all right, Miss?" he asks.

The woman looks him in the eyes. Her eyes are also red and puffy, her makeup smeared, her hair a mess.

"I... I've gotten your suit dirty," the woman says, then she is crying again, her face buried in the man's neck, and soon the sobs consume her once more.

No. She isn't alright. She is not alright at all.

Someone needs me, someone needs me, someone needs me; the man's thoughts are circular and overpowering. He is crying into the woman's hair, but he doesn't realize he is. He pulls her closer to him, and the man and the woman are no longer alone. They will never be alone again.

Some say writing is the ultimate form of self-expression, but that is wrong.

Writing, true writing, is a story. It's not even the writer's story, but the readers'. Writing isn't really about the self, isn't it? It's about the others. The people in the story. The readers. Writing not for self, but for them.


  1. Writing being the readers' story is an interesting concept. I'll have to think about that a bit. I will say that I put myself into the story almost instantly. It drew me in.
    I related to your story big-time. Suicide can be prevented just as you described. Talking to someone when your depressed, or any number of other typical routes usually fail, but a trivial action can change a life forever.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Great story. And something very important to think about during the holidays while we are all wrapped up in our families. Some people do not have families to be wrapped up in.


Join the conversation, add insight, or disagree with us! We welcome your thoughts.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.