For English, my teacher asked me to enter a writing competition. The subject was ‘The power and influence of language in society’.
I don’t know much about the power and influence of language in society.
So I wrote about what I do know.
I just know the prettiest girl, with the prettiest words.
This is my piece.
For the prettiest girl in heaven
I love you
The power and influence of language in society
‘Life sucks sometimes, but God it’s beautiful Jess’
Eight pretty words, plaited together. Eleven syllables. Forty letters whispered from the curve of your lips. This is just one sentence, in a breath of time. Two pretty girls, bodies slowly failing. No-one but us are even aware of this moment.
Eight words. Eleven Syllables. Forty letters. One girl.
This sentence changed my life.
There was once a time when words were exactly that. Just words. No pretty semantics, potential unrealised. They were scribbles on the calendar, another sleepover. Text messages were jumping crickets, bouncing from one gaggle to the next, boys and too many sips sure to ensue. Kisses and laughter and life and living. There was a time.
There was a time before disease, scars in the crooks of my arms and the taste of blood staining my cracked lips. A time when the clack of strappy heels took the place of my fingers stroking the rubbery skin of a wheelchair cage. A time when your hair was still your own, and the pieces of your puzzle whole. When Chemotherapy didn’t dance off your tongue, and the lace of your bra needn’t make way for a Port.
But that’s the thing about time. It’s always moving, always changing, twirling ribbons of memories, commitments and events entwined. And all the while we are left waiting for what comes next.
We had no idea of what was to come. Had we known, I would have laced your fingers in mine, and we would have run. We would have run to the edge of the stars, never looking back, not once pausing to catch our breath. And once we reached the edge, we would learn to fly, just so that we could escape. We would never have waited for what was waiting for us.
But you cannot run from your own fate.
Cancer caught up with you, and Muscle disease caught up with me. And we would never have changed a thing. People didn’t understand. How could they? They saw a parent’s worst nightmare. The smooth of your bald head, the smooth of the wheels beneath my waist. They saw the blood, they felt the scars, they heard the screams. They only saw the notes, not the song.
We saw letters. We saw words. We saw stories. We saw hope.
You wrote to me from your hospital bed, cloaked in the smell of Microshield and the symphony of machines, bleating for their turn. I wrote from the prison of my home, my body rendered useless. Never on pen and paper, for the IV’s were too greedy for the crooks of our arms. But rather, we typed from screen to screen. Each night, as the world slept, we wrote. Letters from one broken butterfly to another.
Tell me what it’s like. These were the cautious whispers of our tapping fingertips. It was the world’s favourite question;
How are you going?
But no-one wanted to know, not really. We saved the brave face for the world, and the truth for one another. You told me of the day the medication left your lips in a slump.
I keep screaming so I know I am not going crazy.
The salt settled in the hollows of my cheeks as I painted for you the day Mummy slowly bathed my sixteen year old wings.
I should be able to do it myself.
Your letters stained my nose with the smell of the vomit, the burns tattooing your skin from the poison weeping in your veins. Each click was an encouragement as one another took teenage baby steps. You had one leg. I had two which didn’t work. But imagine when we can dance the screen giggled.
Are you scared? Well meaning faces with upside down smiles continued to remind us how brave we are, how strong. We would smile and thank them. And once the world had returned home, we would write. Your scans were back. There were now too many shadows on your lungs to count. I am absolutely soul broken. Together we howled to a God we weren’t sure existed anymore. We smiled for Mummy, Daddy, baby brothers. Their pain was great enough without ours. 800 km’s away from one another, we held hands and wept the truth. This is just so hard.
Everything is so pretty. People thought that we were disadvantaged, that we drew the short straw. And maybe we did. But sometimes you need to be broken in your bed to realise how pretty the sky is. They wept for us, and all the while we were dancing. I remember the day that the sky’s tears dribbled down the glass, and you hobbled outside, a container of chalk in your grip. You plonked your battered frame under the sky, wet, bald and beautiful, and began to draw. While the rest of the world ran for cover, you watched the droplets blend together your creations. As you typed, I remember thinking it was the prettiest thing I had ever read. I sent you stories of red lipstick for CT scans, fingernails in every colour of the rainbow. I want to look pretty for treatment today. For each result, medication, treatment scribbled down, we flew paper planes of hope to one another in the dark.
What do you think it will be like when we get to heaven? Your body was growing a little too heavy. You were ready for your wings. So, I swallowed the sob resting in my throat. You took a deep breath. And we wrote. We wrote of wearing the prettiest dresses, in the right shade of pink. Of the wings which we have had all our lives, but not yet had the chance to use. You promised to float pretty thoughts into my mind. I promised you that you would have the longest, thickest locks in the sky. You promised to wait, and I promised to remember. You wrote it all down. Every now and then, when my heart hurts a little less, I read your words and I smile. And I remember.
We were just two girls, whose bodies betrayed us. We were never brave, and we were never strong. The world took our health, our bodies. Eleven months , three weeks and one day ago, it took your life. We lived in a world of screams and scars, bullets and butterflies. But, as long as we had our words, we had one another. And as long as we had one another, we had hope. We wrote of Cancer, of disease, of death and of dying. We told stories of sunsets at the beach, of fairy lights and butterfly kisses.
I don’t know much about the power and influence of language in society. I only know that letters can be written from a Cancer ward to a Rehabilitation ward. I only know that sixteen and seventeen year old girls can talk about dying and living with smiles in their sentences. I know that there is something powerful than Cancer, wheelchairs, amputation, IV’s and dying.
Goggles, you once said to me ‘Life sucks sometimes , but God it’s beautiful Jess’.
And each word of yours that I read, each story, each letter I have tucked away, each note you left for me, I know that your words have given me the most beautiful thing in the world.
And that is the most powerful thing of all.
Love always Snorkles