Melanie was prone to flights of whimsy. An idea would spark from a word, and her mind was an expanse of dry grasslands waiting for that small flame to take it completely and irreversibly.
In class, a teacher would mistakenly say an incendiary word, and Melanie’s brain would be up in flames. Her physics class would disappear in a wall of fire as she ruminated on the story of a person on a car, tossing a ball. Her notes would dissolve into intricate doodles as her brain crafted the words, explaining a long-arching epic of Lydia, the ball-thrower. Her fascination in these intricate imaginary worlds of words could only be broken by the end of class, where she would wearily put on her backpack while realizing she hadn’t absorbed a single thing.
However, Melanie couldn’t feel too badly. Such didactics as she received from her teachers were rarely instructive. Her brain wasn’t set up to comprehend auditory information so adroitly as it were visually or physically. Sometimes, Melanie blamed this deficiency on her poor hearing caused by constant ear infections as a child, but whatever the reason, things like the spoken word had little impact on her brain. The written word was an entirely different story.
Books had been her solace as a child. They were there when others were not, when her parents were too busy, when her siblings picked on her, when the kids at school thought she was weird. The literary worlds of words promised adventure and fulfilment in a way she couldn’t find outside. She glorified those lines of squiggles, falling in love with the rhythm of the language in a way she could never do with a boy. There was a story intrinsic to words that she found herself attempting to unweave with every encounter.
Words meant more to her than she could explain. It represented the understanding of everything. Every thought, every feeling, and every inclination could be elucidated only with words. The universe and the brain were wound in words. Words gave life meaning in a very literal sense.
Words were dripping with expression far beyond their denotation. Words were weighted down by millenia of use, where every individual’s application of them brought to the words a new tilt, a new shade, a new face. Niggardly and stingy may have the same definition, but their connotation supersedes any attempt to use them interchangeably. She may feel happy, blithe, or jolly, but use of any of the three painted a very particular picture of who she was.
Melanie knew all did not feel as she. People would throw words about like bricks, unknowing of their ability to build breathtaking structures. People would laugh at the sugar-spun spires of words Melanie would try to build, questioning why there need be more words for a simple concept like emotion. Some people could not understand the power intrinsic to words.
This extended to teachers. They would say words netted in stories without realizing it. In some discussion of electron counts, a teacher would drop a word like pair. Pair was saturated with stories of duels, of escapades, of romance. As it would sputter out of the teacher’s uncaring lips, it would roll into Melanie’s ears in delicate cursive, whispering animatedly the stories that it knew. Melanie would always fall for that soft susurrus of promise, being whisked away from plebeian classes to worlds of words where things made sense.
Each trip there and back again left Melanie reeling. The strict dichotomy of her worlds of words and the life she was born into made the transition difficult. One was made of everlasting pleasure in experience, and the other, a transient life built on the fear that it will end.
However, it was only the latter that people claimed mattered. Worlds of words were all good and fine, but they were nothing but representations of reality. Indeed, Melanie could see it. How much she loved her worlds of words, they were carved of individual thoughts and ephemeral hopes, upon the shifting sands of a human consciousness. They may make her feel emotions that could not be replicated in reality, but they weren’t real. She understood every reason against dwelling on these worlds of words. There was only one problem.
She couldn’t give them up.