He never spoke. He just rocked and mumbled in his seat as story after story pulsed beneath his skin, repeating like a record with an ever-present scratch. And while he seemed alone with his stories, the demons made sure he would never be lonely.
A crow’s call reverberated to his core.
A weeping neighbor tore at his heart.
And painted windows would set him free.
I played Nina Simone and caught a smile. I brought in watercolors and watched him twinkle. Day after day, week after week, month after month after month, I danced a dance I did not know. Not for money. Not for power. But because his happiness mattered to me. I listened. I loved. I cared. With a paintbrush showing me the direction of the wind and Nina Simone cheering me on.
In a prison of his own.
Where, oh where, was that key?
Then one day when the frost hadn’t even thawed on the prison grounds, he picked up the brush and painted his first diamond-shaped window. And when he was done, he smiled. With a finger tapping to the beat of Nina Simone, his eyes turned toward me with a depth that mirrored my own. And from then on, Tummer Reid used his voice.
Where was that key?
In our hearts.
The only place it ever could be.
* * *
As 2013 begins, my wish for you is that you care deeper than last year, that you love deeper than ever before, that you find your brush and paint windows in whatever shape your heart desires and then invite those around you to do the same. And when you forget how to steer your ship, crawl back into the warmth of your heart to find your key. For the mind is the only real prison and the painted windows of the heart will always set you free.