by Alaa Itani
I want to write for the world, but I don’t want the world to read me. It’s a good thing you don’t know how to read. It’s okay. Just close your eyes, and pretend you’re not looking. Focus on the letters and look past the words (faster). This is the great manifestation. Don’t ask me for my source of inspiration. Writing is breathing, and no one dares to question the process of respiration. Every time I hold the pen, I feel warm. To all the societal pressures you impose upon me, I refuse to conform. Every thought to be written, every word to be thought, is set in stone. The loud sounds in my head are quiet, and upon me I feel the words start to dawn. Look at the page. Look at the paper. Watch how it holds, watch how it unfolds, and then watch my eyes get darker under the weight of its words in gold.
Golden, like a star. Starry, like the sky. In the sky of letters and unfamiliar faces, I want to scream at you. Show me your many faces and then show me your soul, faceless. Show me your favorite places and then show me your words, shameless. These words that you write are deafening, but you don’t make a sound. These words that you say are blinding, but you don’t even write them down. This is what writing is all about. Writing is thinking, and thinking is breathing, and breathing means that in this moment you are alive. I know it sounds surprising when all you can think about is how much you struggle to survive. Look at the clock. Can you tell the time? It just struck eighty-five. Is that even possible? No, but in the realm of writing you can give and take, and in this realm, you can fall and rise. You have the power to control the spaces, the distances, and the times. You can build the pieces, watch them fall together, and then watch them fall apart. Watch me act, put together around you then, on the touch of this sick black ink, fall apart.
You misconstrue the essence of writing. Writing does not impact people; it is the people who impact writing. It’s me, counting the letters, typing the words, decorating the sentences. It’s me telling you my story. It’s you, taking a trip into the depths of my mind - please don’t tell anyone that sometimes I feel a bit lonely. Can you tell what I’m thinking? Can you tell that I’m sinking? I told you. I want to write for the world, but I don’t want the world to read me. Are you reading me? Are you reading through me? Flip the switch. It’s your turn now. You don’t like the hounds, but you hear the vultures. You don’t like the crowds, but you hear the bells ring. Do you hear it? It’s the clapping. It’s the slapping. It’s the stabbing. They soak in your glory. Go write down your story. Remember to never say you’re sorry. Revel in your unfaltering pride. Push all your stupid feelings aside. Conquer all that you try to hide. Everything you’ve been trying to forget – everything you’ve been trying to pretend you don’t regret – write it down and place it in the box under the shelf. This is how you express yourself. It’s not about the numbers or the words. It’s about looking into the depths. It’s because the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts. It’s because writing is the only way I can show you what’s both in my head and my heart. It’s because writing is the only way I can tell you my story backwards from the finish to the start.
Twice you’ve said I’m backwards. Backwards am I not. I am upside down. Flip your phone. Feel the six. The six what? The six. You ask too many answers. You say my words are too loud. You look down at me like I’m a heavy anchor weighing you down. I know you expected sprinkles and sparkles, but I only look for peace in the stars when I am in the vast sea, and I cannot find the land. The stars, I write for them, and I hope one day they will understand. I write for you, to you, about you, to remember what the times were like before my blood turned blue, and I was rushed to the hospital in the morning as the clock struck two. I keep telling you. I want to write for the world, but I don’t want the world to read me. Tell me now: are you the world?