understand

Understand

v. to possess inner knowing about the essence of; to comprehend fully

Rules of Grammar: “Yes. I understand.”

He looked at me, stern but loving.

“Colons,” he said, “go outside the quotation marks, as opposed to commas and periods, which go within.”

I nodded, a sign of agreement.

Yes, I thought. I understand.

Some things can go outside, and some things must be kept within.

Some things everyone can know, and some things I must keep to myself.

I repeated his exact words back to him: “Colons go outside the quotation marks, as opposed to commas and periods, which go within.”

My love for you stays within me, unseen. The fact that we know each other — in the otherwise world — is a fact that goes outside the quotation marks. Everyone can know that: The outside and the otherwise. But there are some things — like what we did last night, like how I feel right now, and like commas, and like periods — these are things that stay within quotation marks. These are things that can be called: The Insides.

“Yes,” I said again. “I understand.”

And by speaking it aloud, I placed these words – this understanding – within my quotation marks, and within me. I placed within me: “Understanding” and “I” and “Yes” and “Yes. I understand.”

 

But then again, I wondered if I truly did understand. After all, inside the quotation marks implies something said, and usually, something said aloud. Outside the quotation marks is, on the other hand, something not said, as in narration, as in prose writing or description, a private connection between words and reader, as opposed to text within the quotation marks: Locked. Frozen. Quoted. So what can go within quotation marks? What goes within and what goes without quotation marks? And how could it have gone on for so long without quotation marks? How had we spoken so clearly, so directly to one another without anyone finding any trace of quotable quotation marks? How had we not yet been noticed, found out? I could not put him inside quotation marks when I was outside, in my otherwise, and yet I thought of him so passionately and so often inside my insides and how had that not come out? And so perhaps the analogy was a failure or a muddled mess at best.

“Wait,” I wanted to say. “I don’t understand.”

“Please,” I wanted to beg. “Explain it to me?”

But I said nothing.

And he said nothing.

Because if he had spoken aloud, I would have quoted him. Inscribed the quote on my heart, in my journal, across my brain. I would have quoted his every word and I would have used commas and periods and I would have placed it all in quotation marks and I would have memorized each character – And by character I mean character as in unit of text – each letter, each mark, each scratch – rather than character as in created or invented or fictional subject – I mean smaller than that, I mean each molecule, each letter, each character. I would have quoted each individual unit with exact precision. The fact that he said nothing – nothing but a simple reminder of grammatical structure – gave me nothing concrete to hold on to. And yet I felt filled with unspeakable energy, longing and lust. I felt on edge and alive, nervous and excited at once. I longed to mis-write and mis-speak and mis-type, only so he would correct me. When analogies fail and synonyms for experience can’t be found or described, I sit with only a page of words – only words that are never only words. And I do understand that, though I can’t describe it at all. I understand my feelings because they are so immediate that they cannot be understood, only lived. They cannot be quoted, anyway, so what is the need for quotation marks?

So when he asked me if I understood, I used my mouth and I put words in quotation marks and I said: Quote. Yes. I understand. Unquote.

I understand commas and periods. I understand colons and quotation marks. I understand my love for you. I understand immediacy and how to correctly use grammatical structure when it comes to quotation marks. I understand what to say and what to not say. I understand what to keep inside, and what I am allowed to share with the outside, otherwise world. And I understand, too, what is being spoken inside – even now – what is spoken as we don’t speak – this rush of feelings and energy. I understand because it cannot be understood and so yes. I understand. Yes.

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