“You don’t understand,” she said, shaking her head under his hand. “It’s not…” She struggled with her mind, as though it had gone in too many different directions without her. She wanted to say something profound, to show the depth of her situation, but in a simple way that he could understand. She wrestled for a moment, and he waited, patiently scratching her head and running his fingers through the knots he created in her hair. He waited because ushering her to speak would make her lose faith in the eventual victory over her mind. He waited for her to win.

Slowly, she felt the words begin to align. She took a breath. “It’s the like emotions are breath you take in. You inhale feeling, experience, sense, memory. It billows inside you, picked apart and redistributed but still hug and pressing. Finally, when there is no room for anything else, you exhale, you breathe out onto a page. It comes out as words. But they must, they must, be the right words.” Her hands fler as she spoke, as though she were molding her voice from the very air. “There is a way to find the exact word for everything. It’s not the same for everyone, but you can find it in your mind. And when you find that word, and put it together with the others you’ve found, they can create something. Something that…something that will touch someone else. And they will read it and they will think, “My god, there is a bit of my soul in this book.” They may not be able to say why, but they know they have found a piece of themselves in the words you created.”

They were silent for a moment . She seemed exhausted by the effort of showing her passion so completely, and he seemed humbled to have seen it. She leaned into him, letting herself be wrapped away as she closed her eyes.

Then, as though someone was speaking with her voice, she heard herself continuing. “Maybe they will just go on. The connection breaks and they move along, setting down your words, and never returning. But for just a moment you touched someone and made them completely whole. Your words were the language of their soul, and that is the ultimate victory.”

He was very still as she finished, and he didn’t know what to say. It didn’t matter – the lateness of the hour and the deep conversation had taken their toll. Her breathing slowed, warm puffs on his chest as she rolled into him. She exhaled, and fell asleep.

He rubbed his thumb in circles on her hand. That was not what he had expected, but then, she never was. He was perplexed by her, for his question hadn’t seemed to warrant her answer. After all, all he had asked was, why?