3 words, 8 letters

I often think back to that scene in The Phantom Tollbooth.

You know the one, or maybe you don’t, where the main character (whose name escapes me now) goes into the land where the people can’t speak. The only way to break the silence is to get a formed word and blow up the Queen’s castle.

Only how to do that? Thoughts don’t work, and since they can’t talk how can they form a word?

The only place that they can talk is in the Queen’s castle, and she wouldn’t let any of them leave with formed words. So of course, the protagonist goes in and has a wonderful conversation with her, and possibly drinks some tea, all the while trying to figure out a way to steal a fully formed noise or word so those outside can be free to speak.

As the main character (I think it was a boy?) leaves, he refrains from saying goodbye; he only waves. Why? Because his goodbye was already formed, on the tip of his tongue, ready to be said. Only he didn’t say it, because with that fully formed goodbye, he and the rest of the people outside the castle could finally speak.

Interesting, huh?

I read the book in 3rd grade, a whopping nine years ago, and yet I still remember that specific scene, even though I remember nothing else of the book. Why is that?

I don’t have the answer to that, but I now understand how easy it is to have to swallow fully formed words. To have them right there, on the tip of my tongue, but am incapable of speaking them.

Those 3 words, 8 letters have been circling around my brain for a while now. They’ve been percolating, not quite fully formed. But suddenly I’ve been forcing myself to keep them off my tongue, even though they feel so real in my mouth that if I swallow too hard, they might go down my esophagus and be lost forever.

I didn’t feel as free as I thought I would after letting those 3 words, 8 letters loose. Maybe it was the hesitancy that I said them with, the possibility instead of the certainty that I used.

“I think I maybe might love you too.”

How reassuring.

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