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November 6, 2012 |

Symbols

Rachel Yoder

Symbols photo

 

Sure, sometimes it’s better not to just come right out and say it, for instance “the unicorns” represent “the writing” and that “the unicorns” are the perfect symbol of “the writing’s magical, elusive, cunning, and enchanted nature.”  Sometimes it’s better, sure, to write about unicorns and how anyone who tries to taxonomize the unicorns or frolic with them or brush their glittery manes will actually wind up killing them, whether on purpose, by bludgeoning them to death in a fit of jealous ecstasy, or inadvertently, but forgetting to watch them VERY CLOSELY and to provide them with buckets of Kool-Aid and piles of marshmallows.  People can handle unicorn play way better than what you’re actually trying to say, which cannot, by any means, be said because that would be overt, and I think we all know how we feel about overt, like when a teacher writes on the board 1 = 1 in chalk and then she turns around and smiles with her eyes all wide, and you’re just like, yeah, and this is remarkable/amazing because...?

But a lot of the time symbols work because they’re clichéd, because everyone knows a rose means love or a bottle of champagne means love and let’s get drunk and then the cork popping is like ejaculation.  We know a heart is love and rows of chocolates in little crimped papers in a white box is love and fat naked babies with wings and sashes and bows and arrows is love, too. 

Also, a diamond is love even though multinational corporations and their targeted ad campaigns are what made me believe this. I know. I know the people in Africa get their hands cut off for a diamond, which is love. I know “blood diamond” is a symbol of “death.” I know that “the money” means “the suffering” and that “the ring buying” means “we don’t care about their suffering,” but what about a vintage ring? What about a diamond from the agreeable and democratic Canadians? What about a diamond from craigslist that some lady who went through a bitter divorce is selling so she can pay for her desperate boob job, or pay for groceries for her two kids the bastard left her with, and does it matter what she’s buying?   I mean, is the symbolism dependent on this?

And are you honestly suggesting that we substitute “nothing” for “the ring” so that “nothing” now means “love”? So that when I don’t get you anything for your birthday, that’s love! Or when I don’t help you bring in the groceries. Or when I don’t make you tater tot casserole. How about I don’t do you for a whole month, just to show how much I love you?

But then you have to go and say something like “the love” equals “the love” and really mean it, not in an “I’m cheap and don’t want to buy you a ring way” but in an “I really love you way,” in an “I’m probably a better person than you are way,” and for one second as we’re sitting in the parked car in the parking lot in front of our apartment and we’re both staring at the shrubs and the lawn and the perfectly statuesque bunnies poised there in the lawn I can see the irreducible quality of your love, how 1 really does equal 1 and how your love is something heavy and real and holdable, your love is a warm brick, how your love is an equation or math itself, how it’s the black lines of an equals sign or a vein of precious metal pierced straight through millions of years of rock, how your love is a polished spoon I find in my pocket and then how it’s the outline of your hand on a piece of paper, how it’s the coldness of the air in the car and also how it’s the idea of a sweater, or of a scarf, and the color green, the quality of green, how your love is this quality, and then how the bunnies never move even as we walk by and are so still and scared and plush and how these are love, because we say they are, we just say it, and that’s what makes it so, what makes them love.

And the bunny will become the symbol of our family crest. And we will jointly change our last names to Slippers, which shall curve above the bunny in really obnoxious script.  And we shall live happily ever after.

And.

And.

 But.

The diamond.  It’s twirling, there in the air between us. That it glints and sometimes blinds us in its glinting cannot be denied. And I want to say it stands for all that’s devious and selfish, for everything inconsistent and wretched. I want to say love is not just bunnies and shiny spoons and bricks, that love is diamonds and blood and missing appendages.  I want to say it’s really sweet when 1 = 1 but sometimes 1 = 5 bajillion and sometimes 1 = an unspeakable Nigerian word and sometimes, quite frankly, 1 is not even part of the equation and instead we’re dealing with pi or “irrational numbers” which actually pretty much piss me off.

I want to say the diamond stands for nothing.  I do. I want to say the diamond does not matter. “It is just a symbol!” I exclaim in my make-believe world of me being really okay with just about everything. “Symbols are dumb! I don’t even like symbols! That has been my stance since the beginning of time, basically.” I want all of this. I want to say I do not have an emotionally complex reaction to symbols.  I do. I mean, I don’t.

But I also want a diamond, because it now undeniably twirls there between us (as if we have caused it to be there, a thing we both try not to think about and in this trying it emerges strange and large and quite sparkly, counter to our trying) and it does not mean love nor does it mean death but it means something else, something about the sharp light of a facet, something that’s beautiful and complicated and expensive, that what we have is expensive and we are beggars, both of us. We are beggars at the door.  And I know the door is a symbol of something, but I can’t, I will not, say what.

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