It cannot speak to her, I must speak through it. I must say in a moment what I could not otherwise say in a lifetime and what I did not manage to say in the lifetime I shared with her. The process itself is the statement, the making of it. Every time my fingers touch the clay, every movement of my foot on the pedal to spin the wheel, the pounding, the mixing of the earth under my hands, and every lick of flame in the kiln upon the almost finished result, it all utters something inside me and leaves its record to speak beyond me. All that I have said and learned to say is said through it. Or so I would wish.
The cup spins in the womb of my hands and the wheel. Twenty years or so ago, I would have said it was gray and lifeless. Now I see it as it truly is: colorful beyond explanation and alive. Growing. Growing into a vessel that will hold all that was poured into it during its creation. I don’t fully know what I will say through it, and I won’t until it is done. When I finally remove it from the kiln, I will see all I have said in it. Only then will I know if it has it all. If I am complete in it. If it is the last one.
I take a moment to let my eyes leave the morphing cup in front of me and glance at the six shelves in the side of my workshop that hold its siblings. They are all unique, and I could know them by touch alone at this point. The first one sits in the back-left corner on the bottom-left shelf. It took me five years to realize I had to make it, five years of wandering in my own mind, wondering what exactly I needed to do, knowing only that something must be done or else my restlessness and regret would invade my memories and make their home there where I wish were only her. The old cup is uneven, lumpy, and cracked, but I’ve learned that how things look matters only so very little. What matters is what is said through it, and what is said is unique both to who speaks it and what he uses to speak through. What I hear when I look at it could never be said through anything but this cup and never by anyone else but me. It’s a personal language that I shared with her, difficult to learn and difficult to speak. I think only the two of us could ever learn it. So, perhaps it was ours and not mine.
That one is the simplest, both in form and statement, and it was the hardest to make. Still, it says a lot but not nearly enough, its whispered “I love you” barely saying any more than mere words. But that little bit more is volumes upon volumes, and it is unspeakable to anyone but her. Every successive one says more and more, and I hope I can finally find it all to say and say it through this one.
I keep my eyes on them a little while longer, ignoring the one in my hands. I barely have to look anymore. I can sense it without seeing, almost as clearly as I can see her back then, in the memories she lives in for me now. Many times I do not realize I am making anything at all, I am simply living back then, both in my workshop and in a different time, letting nothing else in and pouring everything out and into the clay. They all say something different, each a little bit more than the last, all ninety-nine in their way, building up to something unknown to me until I’ve said all that may be said and perhaps more, and then I will have finally reached her with all the past and all the future coalescing into the present into an instant that has it all.
My eyes wander over to it but focus back to something she once said. She says it with a look one night, after a day of nothing spectacular or moving. She has white hairs running throughout the rest, and it all is everywhere and about, rough and unkempt. She is breathing hard and the sheet is pulled up only to her waist. The power is out and air-conditioning broken anyway. The windows are open in our bedroom and the curtains flutter in dim moonlight. It must be summer. We can’t look away and she says it over and over again. I repeat it as best I can, but I am out of breath and even unspoken I can’t say it all back in my own way. She senses this and says it louder again and again, the sound of our breathing the only sounds in the room. She overwhelms me with it, but I soak it all in and live there in the statement that is also a promise. The room cannot hold it all, so it escapes through the windows, bathing the world in a reckless and naked truth. I pull her towards me and kiss her, but she repeats it there too.
The cup is almost done. I see it now that I am back here, and I stop the wheel and reach for my wire. When I hold it in my hands, turning it over a few times, I see it has a response running through it. What it is, I will know after the fires and glaze are done with it. I set it down and stand up to light the kiln.