I never know if I’ll have to wear a helmet when I talk with him. Sometimes, his haphazard words fly like bullets, pelting the air around him with the staccato of indifference. Sometimes his words are exactly what I need, a sharp jab at the side to pull me back together.
I don’t know if he can feel the thumbtacks spilling out of his mouth when he speaks. Even though he’s mastered positioning the tacks so the sharp ends shoot straight out of his mouth instead of poking him, I know the pins prick his cheek anyway. I wonder if he winces at blood pooling in his mouth, wishing he could speak in feathers.
When he’s careful, his thumbtack arrangements are almost art. He can pin anything together, be it art, ideas, people, dreams. Sit down for a moment with him, and he can arrange fuzzy dreams into color. Come with a broken heart, and he can pin it back into shape. I love watching him talk, watching him pluck ideas from the air and mounting them to reality.
When he’s not careful, he spills his thumbtacks everywhere. He says he doesn’t mean to, but every time he opens his mouth he pours another box of tacks over my head. One cut is nothing, but a hundred little cuts smolder for the next week as I quietly water the fire in my heart with tears. I’m not the first. He will never see my tears, but I wonder if he’s ever watched someone cry with his thumbtacks pinned to their bleeding chest.
He speaks in thumbtacks. And though I know it’s important in keeping everything together, sometimes, I wish he would speak in feathers.