2. Lines in the Sand

by thanklemons


The idiomatic, enigmatic English language. I chose to study it because it is an impossible world of secrets and contradictions. And when I put pen to paper (or finger to keys), I am one step removed from the words I write. Paper is a filter that presents my thoughts, and I never have to announce myself to the world.

When you found me, you never tried to push back the buffer. Maybe it was a mistake, but this is how it happened.


We walked once next to an ocean and I felt like something was realized, but I didn’t know what. The ocean makes a firm line in the sand, and we left footprints along it. One one side, your trail stayed imprinted; on the other, mine faded quickly, swallowed by the waterlogged sand.

Later, I scrunched my shorts higher on my leg and showed you the tan line, a sharp border. “Just from walking in the sun, today?” you asked, and I nodded. It doesn’t take long to build a wall. There was no transition, just a harsh contrast between dark and light, like the ocean meeting the shore. By nature, the beach is a buffer, an unclaimed in-between. Land and water meet and bow to one another, grazing each other’s paths but retreating just as quickly. Maybe we’re like that, too. 

But you held me and I thought, just as suddenly, Maybe not. 

Without filter, without words, without metaphor or linguistic navigation around the unsayable, I was whole, and I was real. The lines blurred, the in-betweens knit together. Liminal spaces are like voids; you can get lost in them. With anyone, I walk the fence, precariously teetering one way, then the other, never sure how to give myself up without letting myself go. I sensed that you are the same way, and our meeting seemed more meaningful– the compression of dead space we didn’t realize we were keeping around ourselves as we moved closer.


Back when the world was still flat, the horizon marked the end of existence, a horizontal line drawn by God at sky’s end. When you crossed it, you would fall off (“The ends of the Earth,” we still say, like it’s real) and disappear… where?

Is that so different from living?

In English, we fall a great deal; we fall for scams, we fall out with friends, we fall under spells. We fall in love. We fall out of love. The action is natural – we’ve done it before. These turns of phrase, I always think, assuage the grief of falling uncontrollably. Words are power, even when they go unheard.

With language, I own my grief and my fences. I draw the lines I am afraid to cross.