I said that when I was vaccinated, I wanted to plan a trip to visit my friends in France, and you reminded me that you’d recently visited. After three weeks, you’d gotten sick of hearing everyone speaking French, stick their lips out and exhale language. At first, you’d found it beautiful, but you started to miss the bluntness of English. You wanted words with hard endings—like fuck.
English is like that, a language of bricks, each word
overlayed, placed one on top of another. Not that I could, but I don’t want to
give that up. I like the way English misses whatever it is it’s describing. The
language I have is always wrong, the words pass right by so much nuance, and so
to make up for it I keep piling them on, trying always to re-adjust, reframe, make
another pass at it in order bring into view what is still missing.
I write with simple words because I think with them. Who thinks with effulgent or gasconade? Yea, there’s a strange wonder to these words, and maybe they could be edited in, but they just aren’t wandering around waiting to be absent mindedly picked up, slapped onto my big pile of thinking.
A website that calculates the readability of a text says that this my writing is readable for a 7th grader, a 12-year-old. The site calculates this with a combination of many different readability formulas, but each involves a similar process: calculating the average words per sentence, calculating the average length of the words used, and calculating what percentage of the text repeats words multiple times. The shorter the sentences, the shorter the words, the more repetition—or so it has been devised—the easier it is to understand.
For me, though, it’s the simplest phrases that are the hardest to understand. After writing and writing, coming up with theory after theory, I was struck by the sheer force of it when my therapist clarified things for me: I miss you. I keep trying to make it more complicated than it is, turn language into some kind of netting, a gauze to place over a wound.
Somehow, complexity seems to mean that something of real importance happened, that the truth could be intricately described—and it could—with thin slices of salami, underripe pear, pork strewing in the pressure cooker, sandals left open and turned over, all that was sweet right before the end. I’d rather turn to that surface, a photo of my countertop with long shadows pulled across the kitchen wall, than sit, silently, with the weight that rests on my lap.
the missing, the missing, the missing, the missing…