‘You can read it, if you like.’
(The story written to explain the chapters of life before now, where we intersect.)

He said it with nonchalance and maybe because the words were light leaving his tongue but heavy by the time they landed in my ear, I was struck off-balance. I imagine at least, that the words were not heavy with meaning for him, because how would I imagine that those words leaving his lips are as costly for him as they are valuable to me on hearing them?

They landed in my ear and my hand at the same time, little stones dropped into a lake and their ripples sweeping out and down my limbs.

I do not trade in stories lightly, I want to tell him. I hold the stories of others as precious as I hold my stories close. Stories are secrets and trust and truth.

Truthfully, my stories are kept safe behind a tall, brick wall. Stories of my doing, they are like climbing roses on the outside of the wall. Pretty, sweet and sometimes funny I can tell these stories easy and only those who pay close attention will see the bricks behind the flowers.

Lately, I have been thinking about taking some of those bricks down.

Beyond the brick is a wild garden. It is fragrant and sweet, full of fruit and nut trees. There is a river through one corner and the sun falls nicely on the grove of trees. It is both wild and well-tended and it cannot be defined as one thing or another. It is not English nor tropical. It is all things, all being, all stories in their raw and imperfect state. Unfiltered, unrestrained.

Lately, I have been thinking about taking some of those bricks down.

It means something to me, this exchange of the wild, unbound stories. Stories are trust; credit in the bank of understanding. Not understanding as assurance of anything but acceptance and the safe bravery of being Known.

Grace and meaning come from trading stories in my world. Knowing your stories is one step closer to knowing you, the real you – outside the carefully polished mannequins we live inside. At least, I assume it is that way with others, as it is that way with me.

It is a precious thing to hold somebody’s story in your hand. And it is never one story but a collection of tales that weave together one and then the next and the one after. You can traverse sideways, backwards and forwards through the story of another; moments of history and glimpses of the future. So one story could mean all the stories, if you navigate well.

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.” James Baldwin

I keep a rose garden, that grows on a brick wall. The roses thrive on the sun, strapped in obedient lines against a sturdy spine. Well-practiced stories chosen for each moment. A careful selection of which practiced line is safe to use.

Here is the secret, buried in the brick. If I say the wrong thing, tell the wrong story, express the wrong feeling or tell you what I think before I know what you expect, need or want for me to say – then you, whoever you are, will disappear. A terrifying fear that I am responsible for my aloneness by never being the right thing; good enough, funny enough, wise enough, sweet enough, fierce enough, never enough. 

Not an uncommon secret, but mine nonetheless.

Beyond the brick, there is a garden I have come to love. I’ve been living in it, behind the wall my whole life. And lately, I have been thinking about taking down the bricks.

There are some brave and patient ones who have made it far beyond the bricks. They have found crevices through which to crawl. For them, the wild and untamed self delights uninhibited. The storytrader gives freely there and the garden is bountiful. People eat and find shelter and laugh and love is made the whole day long and into the night. The land is good. I peek over the wall and through the window in the gate I hid so well and wonder now, whether I dare wait for those intrepid enough to make their own way through the wall.

Life beyond the brick is good and sweet and sensual and gritty. Lately, I have been thinking about opening the gate or taking down the bricks.