Thursday, December 27, 2012

Who We Used To Be

There was a sense that time had stopped even as I watched it march along in every calculable way. I kept my forward motion, but inside I remained inert. I had only a vague, wisplike memory – or maybe a dream – of what it felt like to be fully etched in reality. Those days when I met people, I thought about them as the children they might have once been, before they chose their cover-ups. Before the uniformity of childhood, the uniformity of recklessness slowly left them. 

The surly teacher whose only solace was the range of violences she meted out to the smallest of her charges – who was she as a little girl? Were her fingers singed with a wooden cane too, until she wrenched out a shaky tune from an instrument she didn’t understand? Why was this barrel-chested, eminent man so easily incensed by the slightest of slights? Can a pipsqueak with wobbly cheeks really be riven into this kind of inventive malice?

My own mother. A single calendar cycle had brought her jowls and taken away her knees. Her horrible singing, too. Now she sat by the window drowning this new silence in tepid cups of coffee. When I go back to the village now, they still tell me how the young boys used to follow her around, this mysterious, angular creature formed by the hand of a doting god. To be spoken to, even reviled by her like they so often were, was to have a blessed day. Don’t I have any photographs of her on my smartphone at least, they ask. Why does she never come back here? She keeps very busy, I say, letting them invent her as they please. They nod approvingly.

I thought about who we’re born, who we decide to be and what we ration of our true selves to the world. When does fact give way to mythology? Had I really always been a mute spectator inhabiting the fringe world, or was I imprisoned there? Might I be a dancer tomorrow, a jester the next, simply by willing it?


  1. Mute spectator is fine.

    Just shut up.

  2. Never. Ever. Shut up. Talk on. Write on. We're listening.