Heart Speak

Prologue of my YA novel. Caught between worlds after years alone in the forest with a Bengal tiger, 14 year old Aradhia Tarekeshwari explores human nature, life, love and language while entangling herself in a forest of intrigue.

Prologue: Heart Speak

     It's hard to find the right words to say what I see. I can't fit the world in my mouth. Words are simple. Tiger. Forest. Sunshine. The world is bigger than that.

     Mr. McArthur said someday I would tell my story myself.

     The tree of words is growing in my mind, putting roots into my heart, shooting out into the world I'm experiencing. So I can maybe almost tell you my story. Almost. Not quite.

       You know--when there is a happy bursting love in your heart, that's so big, the whole world could fit into it--and sometimes more? When life tastes good--better than grape soda pop, or caraway seeds, or fresh oranges, and colors are so bright, and textures are richer, and everything is fabulous, so much so that when you close your eyes, your heart is filled with sunshine? And it's not just because of any particular thing--the way Mona wrinkles her nose, the way the sun melts ice, how red poppies are, how hard an egg is or how soft a chick is, the way your wrist tickles when someone runs a feather over it, or how splashing cool water at somebody and watching them giggle and scream feels--it's not because of anything, or maybe it's because of everything--because it's all over everything, splashing everything with sparkling energy. And when someone says "see, that's how it is"--that's how it is, and suddenly the picture of the planet on the wall is the whole universe, and your heart goes dancing, because you're on the edge of knowing everything you have to know--having everything you have to have--but you can't say it out loud, and you're about to burst with the laughter of it?

     That's joy.

     That's how I feel about life in the forest. That's how I feel about tiger cubs. That's how I feel about light on trees on misty mornings. That's how I felt about hugging someone I care about. That's how I feel about life.

     So. That's joy.

     The word, joy. That's what it means.


     Not quite.

     A word--words plural--connected as a sentence, vibrating through air as sound and drumming your ear, to be converted to a concept older than time inside your brain--a word can't ever tell you exactly what I'm trying to say--really. A word is like a bottle. What you are trying to say is like the perfume inside you can't see.

      But you'll know what I'm trying to say, even though it's not in the words, not quite. You'll know what I feel when you feel it too.  Something about the tone of my voice, the way the words sit on paper, something in the mood of the atoms of our hearts exchanging a pattern written to the beat of an ancient drum, conveys a connection we both feel even if there is no word for the connection. That connection is what words are made of. That connection is how animals talk. That connection is what makes the whole universe alive. It's why you are you and I am me.

     And it is how I can tell you my story even when I'm not sure I can find the right words to explain it.

      I didn't know how to say that before. I didn't know how to explain what I was feeling. That was before I went to live with Sangita and Ajay Payal at the research center. That was before I helped Mona go back to the forest. That was before I knew humans were animals too.

     That was before I could spell L-O-V-E and realized that that one word held everything I had ever tried to say.

      So I am going to tell my story now. Even though it won't be what I'm trying to say.

      Not quite.

      I'll tell my story as if it is happening now, because every time is now when it happens. Keep in mind at the times I am writing about, my language was not always as good as it is now as I write.

     This is the story of how I decided what was most important. This is the story of how Mr. McArthur found something he was looking for and almost threw it away.  This is the story of how I found my way back to the bodhi tree den.  This is the story of how I learned to talk and Mr. McArthur learned to say. It's the story of how a girl taught a cub to be a tiger and how a tiger taught a girl to be a human. It's a story about how someone almost died and how someone else did die.

     But mostly this is a story about coming alive.

The End

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