When the Page Thinks About Words

There are no words.

At least, there are no words yet, anyway.

The page lies empty waiting for something to happen. Sometimes the page thinks it would like to remain white, clean. Remain untouched by the footprints of letters turning into words as they follow the twisting paths of the sentences deep into the paragraphs.

The page likes the idea of its own emptiness. It likes to leave the possibilities open. But then the words come along and try to fix meaning, purpose to the page. All too often, the page doesn’t like the feel of the words crawling over it, leaving their mark on it. A stain it cannot easily wash off.

For the rest of its existence, the page will bear the mark of those words. Sometimes it is all right, sometimes it is not too bad. Occasionally, the page is used as a love letter, a story or a joke, something that makes it feel good about the words marked upon it like a tattoo on fresh skin.

Other times, the words are awful, full of hate, or idiocy, or prejudice and exclusion. The sort of thing that makes the paper wish it was still a tree, or that it had been like that poorer quality paper out on the edge of the woods where even the dead leave refused to fall. The only hope for the paper from that place had been to become toilet tissue. But even that would be better than to have some of those words some people committed to paper. Better flushed away than to have to bear words like that for everyone to see.

Still, sometimes it isn’t so bad. The words can tickle as they settle down in the whiteness. Some words are welcome, feeling at home in the expanse of the page, becoming almost like friends to the no-longer empty page. Sometimes it is hard to remember, easy to forget, that the words are like some parasite on the page, using it for their own ends.

These days too, the paper worries about its future. Maybe there will be no need for paper in the future. Although, it has distant relatives who were used to proclaim the death of paper, the paperless office, the dead tree industries. But paper is still here, waiting for its chance to carry the words away from ephemerality, from being just vibrations on the air. The paper gives the words a permanence mere electrons cannot. It would like its decedents to live out their lives as trees, in the way the goddess of the forest intended. The page knows that life as a tree has not half the opportunities a piece of paper has in its life. Provided of course it keeps away from fire, or get crumpled up in disgust and get tossed away, barely used, discarded like yesterday’s worthless newspaper.

Still at least the page learns something as the words fall onto it, shuffling into their places. Each word looking around it strange new home, far from everything it has ever known. The page knows that these are its words now. It is the page’s job to look after them, make sure their meaning remains intact and that those who read the page understand what a good job it is doing. Even if, after all, those words don’t really say all that much.

 

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