People Made of Light

I am the easiest one in the room to take for granted. 

This gives me peace. I can explain.

Like every human, mongoose, and senator, I was born with a box of tangled bulbs. Some light up every time: preference for the underdog, devotion to the elderly, proficiency at remembering the names of Tolkien’s elves. 

Others are blinkered and humbling: anxiety about everything from norovirus to paper towels; ravenous acquisitiveness; inability to apply blush without appearing leprous.

Then there are my lights that go from red to blue without warning, mixed blessings with mixed results: obsession with cats; excess gusto in gift-giving; affirmation of affirmation.

Ah, that last one. 

Some days, I would trade all my velvet scrunchies, plus the emergency backup paper towels, to be rid of this quality. I am a colander for affirmation, trundling through time seeking reassurance plump enough to plug the holes. It does not exist. 

You can tell me that I am a six-winged seraph with Anne Lamott’s wit and Audrey Hepburn’s beauty. In an hour, I will wonder if I have even one slivered almond of a redeeming quality. 

You can tell me that I bear the scent of the eternal. Later, I will ask you if I have lived a single meaningful hour in my life.

You can affirm me to the Andromeda Galaxy, and I will fall back on my ego like a sword.

And yet. 

The bottomless bayou that makes me insufferable also puts me on your side. As your kindness sloshes through my colander, I’m helpless to hold onto it, but I will shower the dusty.

Knowing this thirst so well, I am a bright yellow watering can in the world. I can’t stand to see an empty cup. My eyes fill with tears over dry starfish.

You tell me you are Spam; I say you are lobster Florentine.

If there’s a chin-hair of a chance that you feel hideous, I will summon my full vocabulary on behalf of your beauty.

I will remind you that you shimmer.

If you believe your talents are ash and inanity, I will insist that the world needs your poems, or your corduroy skorts, or your leadership seminars, or your pickled rhubarb.

If you said something foolish or howled unduly among the unimpressed, I will leap atop my Subaru and sing arias for your earnestness.

If you have made a chaos casserole of your life, blowing up the kitchen or the continent, I will be there with my neon microfiber cloth, writing poems about you while we clean up the evidence. 

If you feel lonely or leaky, beige or embattled, under-hugged or overlooked or as brilliant as a bag of hammers, I will remind you that you shimmer.

If this is clearly not the day God has made, so broken the dream and so fanged the abyss, I will rejoice and be glad in you. 

I will, because rejoicing in you is telling the truth.

I will, because I understand how you feel. I felt it three minutes ago.

I will reassure you, from the gardenia wreath on your door all the way to your back rooms, where everything smells like teenagers and wet cardboard.

We will put our holey colanders on our heads and dance around the pyre of our pride until our chin hairs and our limpy gifts and the touchy, watching world (which is not watching) light up like Christmas.

And we will laugh.

And we will remember that we are remembered tenderly, even when we are terrified or terrible.

And tomorrow, you may not remember me at all.

You will remember your friend with quills, who wounds you with ink or raised eyebrows. You will exercise caution duly, aware of the hazards of such hedgehogs.

You will remember your boss who blusters, the swagger-master who makes you feel small unless you splint your confidence carefully.

You will remember the indignant, green-eyed gatekeepers who grease the basement stairs if you forget their birthdays or their expectations or their favorite flavors of Doritos.

You will remember how to keep what you may lose.

You will faintly remember that you can’t lose me. 

When I reassure people that they are made of light, they believe it in the context of my cottage. Under my roof, watching me strain spaghetti, their safety grows muscles. 

They rarely ask if they can use those biceps to help with the spaghetti, but that’s OK.

They feel so safe, they don’t need to keep re-earning my love. They feel so loved, they don’t need to sing or dance.

And if they can still hear their song back in the holey world, I will rejoice and be glad.

This, I believe, is what I’m here for. This is why I was kissed at birth by the complicated fairy, the one who turns lights from red to blue and back.

Take me at my word when I take you on a tour of your cathedral. Take me to heaven when you tell me what I mean to you. Take me for granted, if that’s a symptom of love’s safety.

Just take the spaghetti with you. The world is a hungry place.

Angela Townsend
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