When I was a child, living and thinking as a child, cowardice and fear practically tasted the same on my tongue. Both of them were overly thick, prickly with spiciness and hard to chew on. Fear looked more like split-pea soup and had the same kind of force-it-down feeling with the swallowing, making me gag and groan with every mouth full. Fear was served overly hot and often hurt for a long time after the swallow.
Cowardice, even though it had the same putrid color, pretended it was something like pudding. I knew I should never have bought into the taste of it, but it was what I was offered along with fear, and when that one didn’t taste right I took the other, hoping I could eat it without being seen. It lied to me over and over, shouting out my sin while fingers of blame pointed at me when I tried to put it back. “You took it, now you’ve gotta eat it!” cowardice would taunt. I didn’t want it, but it was too late. I didn’t have the courage I needed to undo everything, or maybe I didn’t have the skills.
Dealing with it as an adult, the word cowardice has a definite taste of its own, unpleasant and hard to forget. I no longer associate it with fear, which has a strong taste of it’s own, and stands alone. Cowardice tastes burnt and yellow, with chunks of maroon and stringy gray bits hanging from its jellied surface. It shimmies and shakes, trying to replicate itself into pure edible goodness. I cannot swallow cowardice like I can fear; it refuses to slide down from the mouth and into the stomach. It churns and gurgles and simply will not stay where it belongs. It tries to take over everything with fetid fingers reaching back up my throat and down into my heart where it has sometimes lived for a long, long time.
It slices too evenly, as if nervous it might have to settle for a lesser portion. It fancies itself food, but in reality it’s something akin to chemicals and guile, not digestible at all. It has no health benefits other than the fact that life goes on when cowardice is consumed. That’s not to say it doesn’t affect life like a poison. Oh! It does! The daily doses I consumed on a regular basis over the course of my life have changed me in dark ways I can only guess at. Everything I didn’t, or wouldn’t, or refused, or turned away from, or ignored due to cowardice has molded me into the person I am today. Cowardice makes the mirror see ugly. Even after years of saying “No, thank you” to further servings, I can taste it in the back of my throat. Its terrible color still coats my tongue.
Buffalo Gal is standing behind me, her arms folded over her ample stomach. She tells me this is all bull shit. I smile a little sadly and tell her softly that I know it is, but not letting it out means keeping it in.
I ask her if it wouldn’t be a form of cowardice to keep my stink covered?
Her response is to remind me of my manners.
I’m sorry for the smell, everyone, but here it is.
Today’s word is cowardice…yuck: