When we were young, my twin brother and I had our own language, one that just the two of us understood. I don’t remember a word of our unique vocabulary, but I believe we stumbled upon something amazing. Without verb conjugations or grammar rules, we somehow managed to understand each other precisely. Despite the complexities and order of the English language, it remains more art than science, often layered with intuitive or hidden meanings that are open to interpretation (or misinterpretation). I remember, with surprising clarity, my brother saying his first words. My mother was reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” when he shouted “Red bird!” My mother cooed at him excitedly and then turned to me. “Emma, can you say red bird? Red bird?” I was silent and didn’t need to speak, because my brother and I already understood each other. These, you might say, were my first unspoken words.
In some ways, language — especially spoken language — feels intensely personal to me. It is part of the reason I love podcasts. Listening to shows like This American Life, Welcome to Night Vale, The Moth Radio Hour, or Wolf 359 feels somehow very intimate. I’ll never meet the owners of the voices on the other end of my headphones, yet I feel very connected to them.
I think the impetus to write or paint or produce comes from the desire to share one’s inner self and perceptions with others. I am very much subject to this urge. I fear that everything I think about, everything that makes me me, will live and die in my mind — locked inside, never expressed. It is the reason why I am always producing: short stories, poems, novels, audio- diaries, and haikus. While I don’t usually share my work, there is something reassuring about putting it int...
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... myself to wallow in the idea of “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone,” except that I wasn’t alone. I was born with a companion, and before we even found words, we found each other. My experiences with my brother and with literature have forced me to cast aside some of my disillusionment. Communication is imperfect. It is difficult. It is frustrating, but I don’t think it is futile. I think it is possible to acknowledge that language is not always what we want it to be without throwing it aside completely. It is imperative to keep fighting to understand and to be understood. I’ll never understand Dickinson completely. I’ll never know exactly what she meant, but nonetheless, I feel very connected to her. There are times when I read her work and see reflections of my own thoughts. She and I are both reaching across this divide — touching, if only for a moment.
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