You could have been a star, but you came down to earth instead.
You have dwelled in two galaxies: the one within your mother where your blood practiced cycling through your veins, and the one you’re born into, where the first blood you spill is your mother’s and it’s her tears that you first taste.
You will grow up skinning your knees and bleeding into the Earth beneath your feet.
While you’re here bleeding you’ll do some very good things.
Once you were just the breath between. You existed between nothing and everything and you were something.
When you bobbled around on unsteady legs and strung together sounds to tell the world you had arrived, perhaps the people who held you didn’t listen. Perhaps they were too exhausted, too young, too afraid, too wrapped up in their own unsteadiness. Too spooked by the sound of their own voice to listen for the echoes of it in yours.
But you will never know how many people looked at you, smiled to themselves, cooed low in their throat as they passed by you kicking your legs in a shopping cart while your mother looked at vinaigrettes. You don’t know, could not possibly know, how many people made goofy faces at you at stoplights, how many people got momentary joy from seeing a tiny human.
Your ability to possess joy, to give it, to feel it, was never dependent on whether or not the hands that laid you in your crib were smiling, or if the woman who fed you from her breast sang to you in the sunless hours.
If you ever find yourself cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet on an otherwise unremarkable Monday evening, the sunlight stepping behind you and continuing on toward the opposite coastline, you may find yourself feeling the ennui of flight.
Do not be alarmed. It will pass the moment you look out your tiny window and see a rainbow from the top; a sunset from the inside. And part of you knows that thousands of millions of billions of people have seen this very sight — but not for very long in human history.
And you feel a little special.
Because it’s easy to believe that you are when you’re so close to escaping the gravity that pulls you down.
You’ve been seen by more people than you think, even though at times you feel positively invisible. We feel that these fleeting glimpses mean nothing because they don’t lead to connection. They don’t breed intimacy. You walk by so many people on any given day and how are you to ever know unless told that you have flickered in their mind for a moment?
The young woman you walked by on your way into the post office smelled your perfume and was reminded of her mother.
The man behind you on line at the grocery heard your voice and thought of his college roommate. You sound so much alike and it makes him grin.
The old lady at the bus stop did a double take, watched you for a moment as you fumbled with your purse, because for a moment as you stuck your earbud in and clenched your wallet between your teeth you looked like her daughter, who is dead now.
You’ve been an almost so many thousands of times.
Your heart beats only for you.
It doesn’t worry about your lovers and others. It doesn’t squeeze and sigh for any other reason than to keep you alive. Your heart is your timekeeper, your compass rose. It’s beats all the permission you ever need to be alive.
So when you’ve come back down to earth and gravity sets about to collapse your lungs and sink you underground, let your hand rest against your chest.
Your particles assembled and at first you kicked against the tiny world you knew. The heart inside you thrums, a little life. You can feel it as you were once felt. Listen hard and you’ll hear the zoetic sounds of you and only you.
Your heart will bleed, and so you’ll bleed.
But while you’re here, bleeding, you’ll do some very good things.
Abby Norman is a science writer & editor based in New England. Her first book, ASK ME ABOUT MY UTERUS: A QUEST TO MAKE DOCTORS BELIEVE IN WOMEN’S PAIN, will be released March 6, 2018 by Nation Books/Hachette.