The first memory I have of stealing a word was when I was ten years old.
It came from a brochure crammed in the pocket behind the driver’s seat in a shuttle bus that was taking my family to a beachfront hotel. “Waves crash rhythmically upon the sandy shoreline,” it advertised. I plucked the word from the page and I tucked the brochure back into its pocket.
Rhythmically. I’d never read a word like it. It had a distinct melody to it and all its phonemes conjured the actual cresting of muddled white seawater. It was poetic. It was vaguely onomatopoeic. It was mine.
I took it home with me. I used it liberally, brandishing my stolen word whenever I got the chance to write.
At first I was writing a lot about crashing waves. All of my school assignments became saturated with the sounds of the ocean. But it grew from there. The power of the word was such that the retelling of every story could be injected with rhythm. The rhythmical pounding of my pedals turned every bike ride into a march. Sneakers squeaking rhythmically on polished wood made a dance out of a basketball game.
It was a kind of magic. Scenes that were once chaotic became orderly and musical when modified by the word “rhythmically.” I realized then that the world was mine to interpret with as much harmony or discord as I saw fit. I had stolen the rhythm of the sea and I was never giving it back.