Face to Face: 6.5.16
by jade crystal harmon
One voice is wild. She’s all chaos and metaphor, sizzling with the lighting strike of ideas, high on the ozone. She’s got paint all over her pants and hair on her legs. She wants to tell you every beautiful word she’s ever found and make you mix tapes.
She loves the potential of blank notebooks and squirrels them all over the house. She scribbles down ideas and promptly forgets about them. When she has the pen, she’s mentally messy, leaving plot holes strewn about like empty coffee cups, abandoning characters half-formed while she dotes on the adjectives and forges ahead with no map, trusting chance.
All fire, Chaos is quickly spent. As the coals cool she can’t even remember why she bothered. Dismayed, she goes to hide in her intricate blanket fort, seals it up with clothes pins, and waits to see if lightning will strike again.
The other voice is stolid, reliable. She’s simple, finding peace in the delicious completion of folded laundry, joy in a list checked off, a clean work surface. She’s good for thinking ahead about the contents of a day trip backpack, the order of a shopping list. She likes to mimic the stories she’s read and when she journals it’s all memories.
She doesn’t like her voice to be overheard in crowds—she’s shy of her heart being scrutinized, wounded with judgment, or worse, indifference. But she’s a good listener and spreads praise like graffiti. She’s fascinated by other people’s vibrant palettes, but ashamed of what she sees as her own pretty basic set of watercolors.
This is their ritual. The lighting strikes and Chaos goes dancing around my brain berserk with possibility. Stolid, who could be helping to map it all out and make it real, knows Chaos won’t stick around to help, so she doesn’t bother. Chaos burns up her fuel and walks away to look at an interesting bug.
Stolid gets nasty, such precious time wasted by this dreamer. “You don’t see anything through. Why do you even bother? The world is already saturated.”
Chaos bites back, “Don’t you have a toilet to clean?”
I thought I was lost in the rubble of their incompatibility. Why didn’t one just win out, devour the other, leave me in peace as a moody eccentric or a reliable shadow?
And then I see. It’s so simple. It’s not a battle, not natural selection. They’re the opposing poles tangled up in the magnet. It’s a love story that’s been going on in my head as long as I’ve been old enough to ask, “again, read it again.” In the long, long ago they were harmonious, inseparable, wore each other’s clothes. But then they hit a jag, they got scared, and all the growing stopped. Each blamed it on the other.
So. My first step to help them reconcile, to remember that once they relied on each other utterly, is to tell their story. It flatters them and they both want to pipe in. Don’t say it too loudly, but they’ve actually enjoyed this quite a lot.
I’m helping by making sure Chaos takes deep breaths and eats lunch. I remind Stolid to be patient, to lay the map. She gets curious. “Chaos, this word doesn’t work hard enough. What question aren’t you asking? You’ve used “utterly” four times already.”
Chaos runs around and drops adjectives all over the place. Stolid carefully chooses between them, but tries not to overthink it. She starts seeing where the infrastructure goes, trimming edges, pulling whole paragraphs. Chaos watches her lovely meandering sidetracks start to pile up around our feet and feels bruised. She starts to retreat. Stolid runs after her.
“Wait, Chaos don’t go, I don’t know what happens next.”
And Chaos pauses, not quite inside the blanket fort. They look at each other for a long time.
“Really, you want to hear it?”
“Yes. I do.”
They lean shoulder to shoulder, hardly realizing, and the writing is pure joy.