Edges of Words

You can fall off the edge of a word the same way you fall off the edge of the world. When you’re not looking. Or by slipping. But there’s no need to worry. Falling off the world’s like falling off a horse. All you gotta do is climb back on. You might want to lay in the grass on your back for a minute, look up at the big blue sky and get your breath back, but you know what you’re doing next so there’s nothing to be bothered about. It happens all the time. 

Happened to me once. I was driving down a Forest Service road a few years back. Just driving and looking around and letting the air and pine smell come in the window on the wind. Nice truck I had, too, old and comfortable without all the gadgets and lights they have now. It’d been raining and all the potholes were full of muddy water. The clouds were clearing out and the sun was shining down over the trees.

I was driving nice and easy, not really going anywhere, and certainly not in any hurry about it. I went around a little corner and all of a sudden the light was coming down on the potholes just right, turning the water reflective so it showed me a tiny piece of the sky. I kept driving and it kept happening, each pothole flickering on in the twilight like a chain of lights leading me wherever it was I was supposed to get to. Only I never ended up anywhere, not that I know of. Not heaven, not a ditch, not some weird place with alien doctors and Elvis and Bigfoot. 

But for a while there I was definitely somewhere else. I know because all of a sudden I went around a corner and was coming into town from the wrong side. There’s only two ways into or out of this town. And I am not lying when I say I know every road in the area. There’s no way to get from where I was to where I got to. Not a single one of the roads out here makes a loop like that. So I must’ve slipped off the edge of the world for a bit and got back on in a little different place than I left. 

Guess something similar happened just now. I started talking about falling off the edges of words and ended up telling about how I fell off the world. I was gonna say something about how words seem to mean something, but when you home in on ‘em too close and squeeze ‘em too tight they get all squirrelly and don’t mean anything at all or mean something different to whoever you’re talking to. Or it turns out that there’s no way to say something just right, like the light on those potholes or the way a piece of it can catch on barbed wire and run out ahead of you until it disappears into the sagebrush and the wind. But that just proves how slippery words are, how you can start out thinking you got em all lined out, that you’re going a certain way with ‘em, and all of a sudden they start going sideways on you and you end up somewhere else, like how sometimes a river gets high and when it goes back down again it doesn’t always go back to the same channel. And that’s okay. Life wouldn’t be as much fun if you always ended up wherever it was you thought you wanted to go. 

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Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash