Small.

To clear up some confusion, this is a creative writing piece I wrote for a class last semester. A regular essay takes a subject, states the central point, and supports it with two to three points of evidence. A lyric essay takes a subject and dances around the central point, never fully stating what the essay is about but circling its outer edges in fragments. This is a lyric essay. I thought about climbing inside of a tree bud yesterday. Everything would be damp and misting if I had: a rubbery birth green that I would pull up to my chin like a sheet. The weight of the vast happenings in my immediate living space had suddenly felt very thick and bulky that morning. Difficult. I was small enough, then - felt intimidated enough, in comparison to these great things, that I might as well have carefully crawled under the tongue of the leaf where it was smooth and guarded in the shade. In fact, I would have had the weather permitted. In my mind, my breathing would have been more secure I think - honeyed and methodically lyrical.

I was standing in the street, by the corner of Grand and South Oxford, when I first thought of it. The black-steel city lights were muted and had blinked off only an hour ago, and I felt the static from the late electricity just as I could feel that the TV was on in the family room all the way from upstairs as a child. I usually assumed it was a sixth sense I had.

You asked where I went that night three days ago when we were in the car and the spaces got all wide in my head and the lights on the top of the theatre flickered. I said that I didn’t have to tell anyone. And it was true because I didn’t, but I mostly said it so you would say that we were going home instead of out and throw all our unused napkins heavily into a garbage can. Families are such plaited things.

When I was six, or eight, or any of those ages when you can be completely unguarded and trusting, I used to sit in the backseat of the car while we drove through Minneapolis and watch the orange lights spot the black expanse and quiver as we went over the 35W bridge with a great rushing sound. That brown, velvety interior is the most secure place I can think of now. I could see that the safest locale for me was in a backseat, and so generally, I always volunteer to let others drive because trusting is a lot easier when that is one’s sole option. When we passed through the underground tunnels by the city yesterday, I felt like I was floating.  The downtown buildings grew in angles over my head, and it was right.

When I think of comfort I think of the night a lot because you don’t really need as much holding in the day.

Cummings wrote a poem about someone and said that the coolness of her smile was stirring of birds between his arms. He said this “in the woods which stutter and sing” (Cummings 8).

Pondering all of this, I felt very attached to the blue postal receptacle I was leaning on next to those morning streetlights. This road, flecked with sunspots and early-morning, grey light, was fastened in my mind as an insulated place. Mom, Dad, and I used to get waffle cones at the corner shop and walk along the back streets to look at the mansions. We’d finish them in the car, generally, while we were driving back by the old, abandoned Lowertown Depot and the stars were just poking through the sky. It was a compacting feeling. I was cased in snugly with my family.

Once I lay down in the middle of a crosswalk, like a scene from a book or a movie, and stared at the sky and looked at my fingers to see if they were normal. I always wondered what my hands looked like to other people. My dad has long fingers too.

In Francis Burnett’s book, The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox lives in India with her wealthy parents. Everyone in the village is dying of cholera: “During the confusion and bewilderment of the second day Mary hid herself in the nursery and was forgotten by everyone…Once she crept into the dining-room and found it empty, though a partly finished meal was on the table and chairs and plates looked as if they had been hastily pushed back when the diners rose suddenly for some reason” (Burnett 3). She ends up drinking a leftover glass of wine, feels intensely drowsy, and wakes up to an empty house the next morning without a mother or father.

In the movie, Mary’s parents die in an earthquake, and she grabs a small ivory elephant off of the trembling nightstand and clinging to it, crawls under the bed until she is backed up against the wall in her bare feet and white, lace nightgown. Smaller places have always been safer. I wonder if all humans revert to this at some point: holding a pillow tight or leaning close to others. Dense, compact, near.

In Iowa, two weekends past, the first thing we noticed on 235 South at night was that the streetlights were wider and flatter. Everything looked crisp and very clean, like we were in one of those cities where you could get arrested for dropping your gum wrapper on the ground. We were one of three cars out at that sedated hour of the morning, and that was the only time it felt different, unsafe. I felt alarmed that everything was so empty and scattered so evenly. I was the one driving that time, though, and home was hundreds of miles away.

Little things are less threatening; I see this as a trend in all settings. Crime is higher in metropolis areas, babies like to be wrapped up tight, close to the body. Minor emotions carry less of a risk than loud, exploited ones. A tiny room has no blank space, I can see everything.

Small is safer, but then you’d never live.