• Melissa Volker

Hello? Anyone out there?

That’s kind of how Delilah of Sunhats and Swans came into being. I was minding my own business, trudging the through the banality of daily office grinds, and suddenly, I felt this nagging, tapping, something somewhere trying to get my attention. Actually, it usually starts as a restlessness. I can’t sleep. I can’t focus. It’s like having an invisible itch you cannot locate, identify or scratch.

Then, the first inkling comes. A sentence. A name. A place. And I realize, “Ah, there’s a story looking to be told.” In this case, it is Delilah come knocking, letting me know she had something to say and insisting I say it for her. So I begin.

After that, it’s often like a floodgate opens. My headaches clear, I feel a rush, an energy, and I cannot get words down fast enough. I start with a notebook by my bed because I still do not sleep, as they (the characters, the words, etc.) seek attention at all hours of the night. They are worse than newborns. I quickly move to a little tape recorder because I cannot jot it down fast enough, I’m too groggy to turn on a light, and all too often, I have a meltdown the next day when I cannot decipher my own nocturnal scratchings.

If I reach a plateau, a place where things slow and I am able to get my bearings a moment, it never lasts long, as each person demands I get their part of the story right, that I put it in the right order and I depict them as they really are. “I would never say that!”, “I didn’t do that there, I do that later.” On and on twenty-four hours a day. A notebook in my bag, pens at the ready, notes scrawled quickly as they always talk to me as though they are running out of time. And maybe they are. Maybe, as they begin to tell me their story and have me transcribe it, they gain form, substance, meaning, and if they falter, if the pace slows or I begin to lose my connection to them, so, too, do they begin to lose the substance and reality they are screaming and struggling so loudly for. Perhaps they only have a small window of time before they fade forever.

It has always been like being a medium for me. Like birth. They become real; become needy, funny, sad, loving, rich. They cling tightly to me as I work to find the exact words, the right phrase, the timing, the rhythm, everything it takes to get their tale right. To get it perfect for them.

Then, when it is all said and done, the last word tweaked, the final period typed, the last re-read finished; when I know I am done because they all fall silent, nothing more to tell, I must let them go. And it is sad. They were mine, alone, for such a long time. They trusted me to tell their story. But my job is done. All that is left is to send them all out into the world.

And while the noise and clutter and incessant tapping I endured during the telling of it was fitful, maddening, exciting, distracting, the silence at the end is often too poignant.

And I miss them.

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