What if you built something from the words said to you? What if you built a castle, profligate of turrets and towers? For example, you could start with the day when you were wearing your favorite shirt, and a boy on the bus asked you, "Are you fat or just pregnant?" The warm spring air, you could fashion into a rose-glass window, and the blousy-breezy shirt could be a floating pink-and-yellow curtain. His words you could grind into dust, mix them with sand, water and stone, and form blocks to make a dull windowsill, a weighty counterpoint to the pink-bright glass.
Or how about the classmate who used to follow you around the hallways in junior high, hitting you in the butt with her gym bag and saying "Vavoom!" This bizarre tribute could be turned into a sweeping, jewel-encrusted staircase, with each incident turned by an alchemist into a stone of unusual color and size. Those who climbed the staircase would always remark that it was both fanciful and mystifying: the torchlight would bend around those colored blocks in such unexpected ways.
Or what about the boy in middle school who insisted that, when you danced, the ground trembled as if under an earthquake? Those dense words would craft a strong foundation, impervious to disasters of all kinds. You could host all the dance parties you wanted, safely.
The multitude of adolescent slights and slurs you could, one by one, convert into floor tiles, walls, cornices, and brick-a-brack. You could cement these building blocks together with a mortar formed from pleasant thoughts, hopes and a little of your spit.
Then, if someone were to call out your name in a whining tone as you walked by him in the gym, you could say, "Thank you! I needed another turret!" Or if the guy you liked laughed at you when you made a mistake in front of the class, you could cry into a bottle and fill the courtyard's reflecting pool.
And the good moments (for they exist, too) could form richly textured tapestries and soft upholstered furniture to adorn each room. The most precious words ("I love you"), could harness their sparkling power to form a magic mirror that would always show you at your best.
Soon, you would view everything differently. Each experience, whether good or ill, embarrassing or exhilarating, you would see as building blocks for your own unique castle: a fortress, shelter, and jewel. And one day, you could stand inside the tallest tower and gaze across spreading hills of purple and green, with the golden sun enveloping you. You could stand there, secure and elevated, and know at last, that nothing could hurt you.
Inspired in part by this passage from "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer: "I wish I could be a girl again, with the chance to live my life again. I have suffered so much more than I needed to. And the joys I have felt have not always been joyous. I could have lived differently." It is also inspired, of course, by the childhood assertion that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."