March 29, 2021 § 6 Comments
By Jen Machajewski
I am picturing a room, in the way a room is a tangible thing, a space with its own dimensions, rules, and properties. When I cross the threshold into my room I can drop all my thoughts—on proof, on facts, on defending myself—at the door. They are still there; I have not abandoned them as too complicated or too messy to participate. But lovingly, as if to a child urgent for another turn, I ask them to wait right here. Wait just outside this room. I’ll be back soon.
Inside my room, the too-sensitive, the too-difficult, the overwhelming-to-others version of myself gets to insist. Insist on the thermostat set to 78 degrees, every single light on at the same time, and silence except for my keyboard that fashionably mimics the sound of a mechanical typewriter. And on another day, in the exact same room, I can insist on 68 degrees, wearing two layers of clothes and burrowing into my blankets. Fairy-lights for a warming glow, pen and paper as the writing tool de jour. The sound is now the strumming of a guitarist who plays two harmonies with one hand. I put it on repeat—for as long as I need.
My decisions and choices need not make sense here. My symptoms require no consistency, no measurable standard deviation, no explanations coated in apologies. I can be fluid and rigid and exhausted and energized as I try to capture the fleeting pieces of the story my body wants told.
As I work, ghosts slip under the door and taunt me, wanting me to chase tangents of anger and frustration, tempting me into rumination. They want to replant their weeds; weeds that I have uprooted again and again and again. The doctor who whispered to his nurse as he left my exam room, told you it’d only take 2 minutes. The psychologist who said I’m not convinced you belong here. The ENT who said: Maybe just accept it as your sound. That that is the sound your brain makes. The clatter of the keyboard, the watery rhythm of the music, or the sound that my brain makes pushes these spirits out of my room.
In my room, the page serves as a net—gentle and transparent—designed to capture a delicate butterfly without damaging its wings or its spirit. I only wish to observe. Offer a bit of water, a bit of nectar, a respite from the weary journey. I do not want to push pins in their wings, tack them to a board for permanent display—proof that I caught the rare thing and, for the sake of evidence, killed it.
These migrating memories, I only want to know them—recognize them—by a pattern on the wing, by that one feather shorter than the others. When they fly together, they glide over the wind in waves and make shapes that I want to understand. Science explains them with math.
Oh, I have mixed my metaphors. Well, it is allowed in my room; a rule I just made up. Birds flying in formations are called a murmuration or dissimulation, but as groups, they can also be: a jubilee, a trembling, a pandemonium. Geese in flight are called a wedge, comfortably logical in both name and shape. A collective of butterflies is a kaleidoscope.
But what I was picturing were grackles: blackbirds with feathers not as iridescent nor as literary as ravens. They travel as plagues. On morning commutes in Dallas, I’d wait at the stoplights watching thousands of them rise and fall, sliding back and forth across the lanes of traffic, as if bragging about their mobility and freedom.
In my room, my breath expands and contracts with the flying collective.
Once, after a piano lesson, I led my two children, aged in single-digits, on an impromptu sprint through a grackle-filled field. We were running to embrace silliness and create a moment.
In my room, I am running to feel the sensation in my body of a memory taking flight.
In my Memoir Room, the kaleidoscopes and plagues linger and play while I translate them into nouns and verbs, adjectives and conjunctions. They trust me now and I them. We will be released not destroyed.
Jen Machajewski is a writer living near Austin, Texas. She is currently enrolled in Bay Path University’s Creative Nonfiction MFA on the Narrative Medicine track and is in the early stages of drafting a memoir. Her anxieties, advocacy, and procrastinations can be found on Instagram.