Excerpt: Just Before the Dawn (Sicut Ante Lucem)

An excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel, page one.

By Sophie Stephens. 1 December 2017.

I have a strange love of words. Any words will do, really: nouns or adverbs or adjectives. When I feel something or think something I can’t express on my own, words are always there to help me out. If there aren’t words in English to back me up, there are words elsewhere: French, Spanish, Latin, Portuguese, Swahili. Words in poems, in songs, in essays, in novels. Somewhere out there in the beautifully big world there are words that are exactly what I am looking for.

Words, when used correctly, can express something deep down; something that is a feeling, a thought, an expression.

Words are there to help when something is right on the tip of your tongue or just tickling the back of your brain. That burning in your chest: passion. That beautiful smell of rain, before, during, and after the storm: petrichor. Words you didn’t even know you needed; ya’aburnee: Arabic for the declaration that you will die before someone you love because you know you couldn’t live without them; l’esprit de pescalier: French for a retort you think of too late, after the time has passed and you have departed; cavoli riscaldati, Italian meaning reheated cabbage but more often used when someone tries to restart a relationship that will never succeed.

Words have never let me down. I’m rarely–if ever–at a loss for words. I have made it my goal in life to learn as many words as I can. All words, multiple languages. I try to be well read, for all genres and difficulties, classics and new releases. Plays, poems, novels; British or American or Anglo or Dutch.

I mean, think of how many words you use a day. Thousands. Talking to your friends, writing emails, texting friends, completing homework, reading a book for fun. The second you step outside, your brain recognizes the sensations, the way you feel, and connects those feelings to words: whether it is humid outside, wet, freezing cold, or scalding hot, your brain uses words to explain what you are experiencing. When you see a little puppy, you instantly find words to connect to the feeling you have upon seeing the adorable thing. Look: “adorable.” A simple word to convey such a strong feeling inside of me. When you listen to a song, do you ever feel…something… that unexplainable “something”? Good chance there is a word somewhere out there to explain that. When you view an incredible piece of artwork (again: “incredible”), you instinctively connect what you see–what the art makes you feel–to words.

I think words are the greatest thing humans have created. So yeah, I am in love with words.

So I guess it’s only fitting, a sort of osud,* that the first time I faced a situation where I absolutely could not find a single word in my eloquent vocabulary, my upu lelei,* if you will, it would be the day that my entire life and way of being as I know it would be completely demolished.


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