For this particular prompt, I was inspired to write this short non-fiction essay, but often write in poetry and fiction shorts as well.
Devant la mer j’ai besoin que tu aies un visage
pour savoir où je suis.
I closed my eyes against the words, a sign in a subway, an attempt to culture an uncultured world. They were everywhere, but this one followed me.
“In front of the sea, I need you to have a face / to know where I am.”
It wasn’t that I was broken. I was just lost; unable to deal with anything beyond now, no concept of future except that it came, moment after moment. I didn’t have words for me, or time, or where or how or why. Just this, right now.
This little bit of poetry from some unknown poet who other people probably knew, this strange image, it described something in me in a way I couldn’t articulate. It was a silent wanting. Faced with the unknown sea of everything I could not know, I needed a face, a marker, a road sign.
But this is life, and we don’t have those. We just have steps, and our feet that walk them.
It is the wanting that haunts me still.
It comes and hits me like the waves of that same imagined sea that bowled me over that day in the subway in Paris. I am no longer lost, but like all of us since we opened our eyes and thought “I am awake,” the wanting remains.
I don’t mean wanting like the mess of dailyness that deceives us, but wanting like soul hunger, the kind that gets in your spine and your solar plexus, the kind of wanting that needs.
Because I am human, I always try to fix the wanting. I try to name it, try to pin it, locate it, fill it. If that fails, I pretend it doesn’t exist. I must be satisfied, and therefore I cannot want.
But the sea remains, and before it, I am faceless. My face is not my own, it is elsewhere. I need my own face, to know where I am.
The wanting does not last forever. Like the waves that break down the cliffs, that turn the world over again, I find my feet only sandy, not buried. I am myself again, in this place. The moment passes, the earth continues turning.
I wasn’t broken, just lost. Not afraid, just wanting.
Before the sea, I had no face, and knew not where I was.