there are things we do not say

by Toni McGee Causey

There are things we do not say.
They are safe here, on the page 
between us, you and me.
It started innocently enough, this hiding. 
Scribble scribble
on the back of homework  
folded into sixths and slid
quickly across the desk, hoping that Mr. Owen's
eagle eyes missed the pass.
Too much heart and hope creased in those sixths,
smudged with eraser marks, searching
for the right words that will seal my fate.
Praying that the magic wasn't in the folds, and
maybe the better choice would've been fourths
or eighths. I keep my face down in the 
chapter, hiding behind my hair as he unfolds
my heart and reads.
He pencils something in and slides it
back, studiously avoiding touching and there is
only the page between us. 
And a word: yes.

There are things we do not say.
We will talk about children and schedules
and sometimes, though very rarely, about shoes
and hardwood floors, or the way the
contractors did not match up the kitchen tiles.
There are no words like "hospital" or "cancer"
or "dying" that pass between us.
She does not want to hear them.
They jam in my heart, a 
thousand splinters. Instead,
I will hold onto her with a stubborn fierceness,
and write to her of the time we met. We were sixteen,
some thirty years ago. We sat on a bench
that hot summer, with tanned legs in short shorts
and became fast friends over mutual love
of Ding Dongs and boys. (But not in that order.)
Life was stretched out before us, 
green and eternal.
I will send her an email about
meeting up for a drink, and
she will say "Wednesday" and we will
talk about the weather. 
We will pretend that
everything is okay.

There are things we do not say.
We nudge them out, fledgling sparrows from the
nest and hope that they will fly, these stories
of heartbreak like fissures in the sea, or of love so fine, it is 
spun gold in the sun. We excavate crimes
from mountains of glass shards and
hold them up, prisms of our souls. We tuck into these
words the people we can no longer see, no longer
hear. We share the laughter at the
old inside jokes that made us feel
like a part of a family, the joy of watching
the trust of a child's face as they
decide we're a safe haven, their
arms reaching up for that hug. We slash open and expose 
the deep dark of sitting
in the corner of a closet, wondering if
the mistake we made will destroy
everything we love.
If we're honest,
we'll include the dank bleakness of that
heartbreak, where hope failed to shimmer and
lead the way back out. 
If you let us, 
we'll call it fiction, and dance away as if
we don't know we've just
handed you our hearts.

There are things we do not say.
They are safe here, on the page 
between us, you and me.

I don't really know what to ask you today, so tell me something about someone you love.

14 thoughts on “there are things we do not say

  1. billie

    If you let us,we’ll call it fiction, and dance away as ifwe don’t know we’ve justhanded you our hearts.

    Toni, this is just beautiful. I especially like the bit above.

    Today I’m especially tuned in to how lucky I am to have my husband, who moved my entire office in the rain, by himself, until the wee hours of the night, because it was my birthday and he didn’t want me to have to spend it moving. In the midst of it he brought home cake and ice cream and the number of candles that make up my leap year age, and we all sat down and celebrated together.

  2. SSN

    So, you had to write a tear-jerker? I call foul (since piddidle doesn’t seem to fit here).

    Sometimes our motivation for keeping these things to ourselves is selfish and sometimes selfless. Sometimes we don’t say these things in an attempt to protect those we love most – those who have witnessed the ugly death caused by cancer or other devastating diseases, lost loved ones who suffered from their own demons, or struggled to achieve their goals while our own “success” might seem to have been effortless. It seems unfair to diminish their happiness and joy with our own bad news. Who are we to steal from their bliss? Sometimes we bottle up the unpleasant details because our love is so deep, sincere and complete that protecting our own loved ones is more important than our own trials and tribulations. Sometimes we don’t say the words so that we don’t detract attention from dear friends who have realized their dreams and we want nothing more than for them to continue basking in the spotlight without casting a shadow on their well-deserved attention: we want them to soar. Let’s face it, there are few things that bring you crashing down to reality faster than hearing a statement like, “So the tumors have multiplied and are spreading to other organs.” Watching the glow of excitement of those who have achieved their goals or have realized their dreams brings joy to our lives and allows us to feel “normal.” Sometimes we selfishly want to enjoy the monetary of everyday life without feeling helpless or like a victim at the mercy of experimental protocols or hearing the pity resonating in the physician’s voice as he says “we don’t know what more we can do.” And, sometimes we want to remember those simpler days when we ran the roads in a yellow VW Beetle, talked about boys and ate Ding Dongs while ensuring that our tan was perfect and, best of all, practiced our flirting techniques. While that denial may be “fictitious,” sometimes it feels better to celebrate than commiserate. I doubt that any who gloss over those unpleasant details do so out of maliciousness or malevolence. It may done more out of a sense of love and protectiveness.

  3. toni mcgee causey

    Thank you, billie — that was a lovely tribute to your husband.

    SSN, heh. We have all of those reasons and more, and we love in the weakest moments, and in the strongest. And no, there was no maliciousness or malevolence implied. There is too much love here for that.

  4. Terri

    This is beautiful Toni and I can’t help thinking there’s an underlying message. So..I’m sending you warm hugs!!There are many people I love but at the moment the one who stands out is my daughter Amanda. She’s been quite an inspiration with her never give up attitude. She was born with Cerebral Palsy (a mild form) and has never let it define who she is or what she wants to do. She even got her driving permit last year.In January she was diagnosed with Type One diabetes (I may have mentioned that already). We’re still working on balancing her numbers (they’re being stubborn) and she’s had a few minor problems we aren’t sure are related to the diabetes yet but Manda doesn’t let any of this bother her because she gained 25 pounds! Yeah…that makes her happy because for the past year and a half her goal has been to hit 100 pounds! (*she’s 5’5″ tall and weighed 83 pound in January) And now she’s at 105. Bad thing about that though…I think I found those pounds. *sigh*

  5. Robin of My Two Blessings

    Beautiful, Toni. It brought tears to my eyes and your words are very profound. My special love my husband who is my soul mate and doesn’t let a day go by without telling me he loves me several times. Even when I’m being grumpy and unbearable. Plus, my sweet son, who out of the blue, will look at me and say Mom, I love you. Thank you for your heart felt words.

  6. joylene

    My best buddy Judi showed up in my life on the first day of high school, 1966. Every class that day, she was either in the desk next to me, behind me, or in front of me. I thought it was coincidence. Years later, after the birth of our children, she told me she was terrified that day, but when she saw me, she knew she’d be okay. She somehow knew that I would protect her.

    Strangely, it was Judi who came to my rescue when we lost our eldest son in 1991. It was her again, who took control of my days after we lost his twin 16 years later.

    Today, she is a phone call away. When I’m sad beyond words and can’t imagine getting through the day, the phone rings and there she is encouraging me to be me.

  7. J.B. Thompson

    This is beauty beyond words, Toni – so full of love and compassion and pain and joy. What a wonderful piece. And ditto what Pari said, on both counts. We love YOU, T!

  8. Fran

    My version of “we don’t talk about things” speaks of not voicing the fear that this is my brother-in-law’s third tour, and every time it becomes more dangerous, so we don’t talk about coming home damaged or not coming home at all from a place in the world where I don’t think he has any business being in the first place.

    Instead we talk about great ice cream and how their brother is doing in Virginia and how we’ll spend the Fourth of July, when he’s home again and we can pretend this last tour has never happened.

    What a beautiful post, Toni!

  9. toni mcgee causey

    Thank you, everyone. You all rock. 😉

    I am okay (and thank you all for asking). Just reflecting on how sometimes in important moments it’s been too easy to retreat behind the words and the fiction.


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