A seemingly simple question with an equally complicated answer.
A question that makes my stomach bubble with life-sized butterflies, butterflies that flap their elephant-ear sized wings and that threaten to swallow me whole until I live in their stomachs.
For some, the answer is easy. Quick, like one two three. But for me? Not so much.
I open my mouth to answer. But all that emerges are incoherent rumblings, words and parts of sentences: “School. Writing. Publishing. Done. Fashion. University. Books. Teaching. Nothing. Fiction” like a mash-up of contents in the blender, equal parts confusing and equal parts disgusting.
The answer I wish I could form is much more lucid, much more awe-inducing.
A seamstress. I weave worlds out of words, thread them so tight you can’t tell what’s real and what’s fake.
An artist. I draw and sketch people who don’t exist, paint their likeness onto a canvas of light and dark, of glitter and splendour.
A magician. I wave my empty hands, with a swish and a flick, and ignite flames of passion and desire, of fury and fire.
But this answer remains buried deep inside, trapped between the aortic valve and the aorta, lodged somewhere beneath the larynx and the epiglottis, and makes my tonsils rattle.
And shame warms my cheeks, keeps my neck ablaze, and casts my eyes downward, as I search for an answer that will make them smile, and not raise their eyebrows, an answer that will make me smile, instead of chew my nails nervously. I search for a truth among the lies.
They mean well. I know they do. Sometimes, they’re just curious.
I can see the look in their eyes. The smile and pregnant pause right before asking of the question. I can feel the waves of anxiety beat against the walls of my stomach, as they open their mouths to say, “So. What is it that you do?”