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It's All In A Word

Sister (little)

We are not blood. I didn’t meet you until we were both our own people, having lived lives apart. And yet you slotted yourself almost without words into the depths of me. Into a place reserved for those I would protect with my entire being. As natural as the air I breathe and as sure as mountain roots, you became part of my circle. For once, I was able to seem wise, leading you through problems and looking almost invincible, an image I worked to maintain, because letting you down was something I simply couldn’t allow.


I am not tied to you by a last name, and yet our history is as rich a tapestry as any family tree, as I watch you grow and falter, laugh with such infectiousness and sob with tears that break my heart. I found a protectiveness inside me I didn’t know existed, that I almost had no right to, but flooded through me regardless. And when I hit my lowest, I realised that was not a one-way street.


You don’t need me in the same way now, and I have watched you carve a path of your own, and it is more fulfilling than you’ll ever know. And I will always be stood at your side, cheering like a lunatic. But in some ways, to me, even if I never tell you, you will always be the kid I met out of nowhere, who changed me in ways I never imagined.


 

Streetlights

There’s something beautiful when the evening hits its turning point, becoming just dark enough to become lit by the spheres of amber light. Beautiful but tinged with something else. These lights become the beacons to lead us home but create the shadows things we’d rather avoid lurk within. Representative of safety, the places we’re meant to stick to, and yet laden with the childhood instinct that they signal the time to retreat back inside.


I’ve often wandered under their glow, finding solace in the time alone, but knowing I am watched over from above. I’ve walked for miles on nights where I had no indication of a destination, just a desire for space and air, and having a constant set of companions has been a blessing I did not fully appreciate at the time.


I wonder what else they’ve seen, these lights. I wish I could interrogate them, unpick their secrets. And yet they stand, silent but observant, as I walk beneath them yet again.


 

Victory

I heard stories of great victories. Of winners of great battles and duels, tales of adventures returning with treasure having been successful on their ----- journeys. And while my own victories have nowhere near the scope, that wave of pure feeling that crashes around me at the moment of success will have me chasing it for as long as I live. Even sweeter when its shared, when its earned through grit and determination, a battle for the moment of elation.


I have been called competitive, been mocked for the speed at which I descend into sulking when I lose. but I think what’s missed by most is that I am an addict. An addict to that feeling. No matter the scale of the event, what may be at stake, the feeling of winning is the fix that I will never get enough of. finding little victories in day to day life, and watching for the larger ones appear over the horizon, anticipating, willing myself to push myself to taste it once again.


There is no greater joy, no more intoxicating sensation than victory. I have said many a time I would rather die than lose, in anything. But really, I’m just the addict, searching for the next unattainable hit.


 

Universe

We have no right to be here. each one of us is the product of stolen kisses in the dark and glasses of wine that led to bad decisions. We are the result of wars that spared a life, of peace that ended another, of choices made eons ago by minds ruled by instinct. you and I are constructed from Washingtons bones and Shakespeare’s tears. Sioux chieftains and scullery maids flow through our veins. Soldiers, kings, farmers, and saints make up the fabric of who we are. We are volcanoes. We are oceans. We are stardust. We are the closest thing to a miracle to ever exist.


And so, despite the challenges that you are faced with, which I will not dismiss, I will not allow you to give up this thing we call life. For when I see you, I see the most perfect collection of coincidences that have ever collided. We are all already fading slowly. But God, I will dance in the light of you until my feet carry me no more.


 

Sister (older)

I always wanted to be you. despite the fact that we were as different as two people could be, in shape, in interests, in dreams, there is no one else I was more desperate to be like. The person that seemed far wiser, wittier, more grounded than I could ever hope to me. People would tell me you had fears and doubts of your own, and yet when I saw you, when I still see you, I am convinced they must be mistaken


Burdened with the task of being the example, of dealing with things so I didn’t have to, or teaching me something I did not understand I needed, a task I did not fully appreciate until I myself grew up. A task I may never fully appreciate. You taught me in your actions, your words, and when you opted to use neither if the need arose.


There is nothing I can say that adequately sums up my gratitude. Other than to say I am a better man than I would’ve been had I not had you to guide me. And that one day, in some small way, I hope to return even half of what you have given me.


 

Road

The road laid out for me is not the one I started on. The journey I undertook had the promise of riches and adventure urging me on, and yet I seem unable to find them. I have crossed oceans and skies, travelled at speeds that would scorch the earth and been forced to change direction at the whisper of an adverse wind. And yet my feet keep moving, keep finding the will to put one in front of the other, with the promise that just over the hill, just around the bend…


I have not taken the journey alone. My hand has been held, my burdens carried, my spirits lifted by so many, and as many have added weight to my back and tried to slow my progress. I thank them all, to some extent, for the lessons they’ve given had value no matter the result. And I know that there are people yet to find, others who will participate, even as they walk their own paths. They will cross and intersect with my own, and then veer off again, but we’ll walk in step together for a while.


But the biggest lesson, that no one could teach me, was to occasionally take the time to look back. And see everything that has gone before. The monsters vanquished, the hearts broken, the laughter that still rings in the homes I rested at. The tears, cried for me, because of me and by me, could fill oceans. I have taken so many steps, and so many still remain. So many that sometimes they feel like an impossible undertaking. But I will continue to walk until my legs give out.


 

Hope

I watch hope fly as a bird, a heron dancing on breezes just out of reach. I very rarely hold it in my hands, instead surviving on the thought that one day it may settle in my heart and provide me it’s light. Spread its wings throughout my being and shine a beacon in my darkest places.


I have known it be so far away that it became a speck on the horizon, and so close its feathers have brushed my skin and given me such ecstasy I felt that I myself could take flight. It has battled against storms of despair and sailed on headwinds of determination.


I have never seen a bird so beautiful. And I will never know a chase so hard. But as long as those wings continue to beat, I will follow behind, because really, what is hope but the thought that one day, the bird will land in your heart one more time?


 

Rage

I am filled with rage. It courses through my blood, and everyday has been a lesson in how to hold it within myself. I have seen it spill over, causing irreparable harm to both myself and others. I have seen it consume friends, twist lovers and fester in my own veins. Sometimes I feel unable to handle it, like it’s too much for one body to contain. A younger me was unable to hold it down, that control only learned through time, and mistakes, and pain.


But I will not allow the inferno to go out. The fire of rage exists in all of us, and we have been taught that its only trait is to harm, to set light to our better nature. But it is not so. The flames burn, but the choice is ours as to whether it burns us or keeps us warm. It is my fuel, the light that keeps going even when I feel I have nothing left to give. Without it I would be something less, something weaker.


This rage is mine. And I am in its debt. I draw such strength from it. This rage is mine. And I curse it. It has cost me so much. But there is one consistent. It is mine. And I would not give it up for anything.


 

Death

For someone I’ve never met, death is an old friend. A companion I often have wished to check in on, exchanging words and comfort with. Whether man or woman, old or young, I don’t know, and yet in some ways, death is more familiar to me than any other I know.


Occasionally I feel the need to defend them, to insist their embrace is warm and comforting, not cold and final. Or to bring them up in conversation, trying to discern if others have chased this familiarity in the way I have. Or to think on them when I’m alone, believing they would appreciate knowing somebody had them in their mind.


The desire to visit my old friend is less regular now. It sits further back in my mind, buried under other things that create distractions. But every now and again, when it’s quiet, or I’m alone, I think again on my old friend, and wonder whether it’s time to visit. And it’s almost like I hear them say “not yet, but don’t worry, I’ll be here when it’s time”.


 

Love

I’m a stranger to it now. I know not its intricacies, it’s quirks and oddities. I closed my gates to it, left it battering at my walls for fear its tenderness would turn sharp and destroy me from within. I learned a fierce resistance to its charms, forcing it into a rout from my heart, and only claiming victory once numbness was all that remained.


But a bitter enemy oft morphs to a beloved friend, and switches back again, forever existing in the space between. The spectrum that places it in opposition is not a straight line, but a circle, making it simple to drift between the two states. I have raised my drawbridge on sight of its advances and brought about a steel edge to ensure it remains outside.


And yet my gates fall, my ramparts fade to nothingness, with no siege, no prolonged battle costing life or limb. Just a touch, a smile, a gesture of pure affection has the effect of a thousand men at arms. A wave stronger than any invading force washes over me, and I am left open once more.


 

Home

Don’t ask me to describe it. That feeling I get when that particular skyline slides into view in the train window. The way my lungs feel fuller breathing in the air that first time, as if its oxygen content is higher than that of where I’ve been.


These streets twist and wind like veins and arteries, all leading back to the undeniable centre of what makes me who I am. A beating, pulsating heart of warmth and restoration. It does not ask me to prove myself to it, it knows its own, and holds no judgement, only relief.


The surface may change, updated and altered to cover the passing of time, but beneath it all remains an unapologetic, unwavering defiance. It demands to be taken for what it is. This little city, which has watched kings fall on its fields and inspired artists in its hills, has not just stood the test of time, but passed with flying colours. There is no palace or manor, no seat of royalty that could surpass its hospitality. It welcomes its own back to its borders but doesn’t mind holding the door to let a stranger in, providing they thank the bus driver.


It doesn’t look like much. But it is mine. And it will remain so until the day my bones return to its earth. So no, I can’t describe it, that feeling I get when I see that skyline. But i know the word that encapsulates it all. Home.


 

Me

There is no enemy I hate more, a friend I love as much or an ally I rely on as consistently. So often I find myself cursing them berating them for their weakness or lack of control. I lose my patience with what they are unable to achieve, mocking them as they falter at yet another hurdle. Why? Why was I burdened with this wreckage, destined to fail whenever they are needed most.


I wish I was not responsible for this brain, this body. That I could hand myself over to something, someone, and allowed to be free of its weight. And yet, I have seen and battled and loved and wept in this form, to the point where giving it up would be a fools errand. After all, when it comes to its end, this life, I have but one thing.

Me.


 

Giant

Hands and arms that seemed able to move mountains because they could pick me up, and the 5-year-old in the superhero cape thought that was a Herculean task. The ears that were always interested in my day, absorbing the ramblings of the 10-year-old whose world was limited to the politics of the playground. eyes that could see straight through the half-truths the 15-year-old tried to tell when he’d done something wrong, and the voice that talked through the solutions rather than berating the mistake.


I was not taught how to live, I simply watched a good man live, and took notes on how there are men and there are hero’s, and not all of them look like they do on the screen, some wear shorts in winter and listen to hard rock from the 80’s. I saw what a ring on a finger meant, witnessed pure, limitless love for a family that did everything they could to be hard work, watched the master of compromise and the cool head work first hand. My dad can ease a room with a smile and sip whiskey with the best of them. He tells me ‘Son, it’s time to stick your chin out and be somebody’ because he didn’t believe in letting moments pass by, they were there to be seized now and worried about later. He expects everything and nothing, he believes in my potential and yet nothing could be more important than being honest to myself. He let me cry, and never once made me think that my tears were a sign of weakness.


My dad showed me that when you brush with death it’s just a reason to grin at the reaper and keep on walking, that no sickness or injury is an excuse to stop living every second of your day. He reminds me every day that you are defined by that which you are still yet to do, not held hostage by the things you have done. He showed me that pride is necessary and arrogance cheap, to never argue with idiots that will beat you with experience, but always show empathy as your first port of call.


I am not my dad. I am not as good and not as kind, not as patient and not as brave. I am a coward, and my short life is certainly littered with mistakes that do not warrant forgiveness. And yet he does forgive me, with the provision that it is down to me to learn from those mistakes and get better. I stand and look at the road at my feet, going ever on and on, and am only able to take the next step because he is holding my hand, and telling me, as he always had, hey kid, it’s okay, it’ll be fine.


I’m taller than my dad. Just. But he is still a giant to me.

 

Tom is a writer, actor and trainee stage combat instructor from Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Growing up with a huge interest in politics, music and sport, he often combines all of these in his performing work. Follow him on Instagram @Tom_M_Eastwood.


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