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He was born into a scrawl of wriggling letters
vocabulary assailed him as he strove to swallow
his surroundings, emulate the sounds jabbering from
a pair of moon-shaped faces with crinkled
vortices and echoing parrot-like expressions.
Somewhere between gurgles, dribbling water music
and pacifier, he identified the gist of it, phenomes
and syllables struggling for comprehension in bubble-soup.
Oceans of understanding solidifying slowly in waves
of liquid vowels and drifting consonants.
Kindergarten and first schoolrooms were a cruise.
He discovered books! Heaps and heaps of them, colored,
fanciful, pop-up and pop-out cows, ducks and elephants,
travels to wonderlands, flying carpets, alligators and
allegories, wise old owls, legends, bible stories and
wow! Superman, Captain Marvel, Desperate Dan, Aristotle,
Madame Blavatsky, Chaucer, Dante, Homer – the list
was endless. He gobbled patiently, a literary caterpillar,
word after word, fable after legend. History. Philosophy.
Riddles and myths. His appetite was insatiable, overpowering.
By eleven he was a quiz kid, entertained on television
won several spelling bees, internationally broadcast.
Before his voice broke he was quoting whole pages
of King James, almanacs and rabbinical interpretations,
needlepoint and musicology, the origins of planets, names
of Latin-sounding creatures and crustaceans, the art of
solving thousand piece jig-saw puzzles, Chinese cooking,
angling, baseball heroes, lists of scores and years – all bubbled
flawlessly from somewhere in his photogenic, pre-teen, hairless
grinning lips and cheeks.
Then one spring morning everything came to a premature end.
He fell in love with a crash that was heard by all the librarians
sending him their overdue and expired borrowing notices. She
was tall, had long red hair, longer legs, soft curves in all the
places his questing eyes could hope for. And she was Norwegian,
couldn’t speak a word of English. For the first two luscious
groping-and-discovery months they communicated in sighs and
sign language. What they failed to understand they translated
with fingertips, lips and genitals. Life was ecstatic. Books faded
into distant history.
She mastered elementary English conversation. Got a job in a
music store. Entranced customers with her phenomenal knowledge
of plainsong, baroque and medieval Gregorian chants. Worked
long hours. They hardly saw one another except on weekends.
Eventually she met a married rock-and-roll guitarist, quit her
job and left town with him, never to be heard of again.
Devastated, our hero went back to reading. Studied French, Greek,
Mandarin, Russian. Spent all his time in reference libraries and
on the Internet looking up linguistic theory, morphology and
derivative cross-cultural word-pattern similarities. Nothing helped.
The itch in his lower regions reminded him of liaisons and whispering
that no amount of language could compensate. No words could calm.
He joined a monastery, shaved his head. Took a vow of silence and
abstinence. Slowly he became accustomed to a life devoid of
language and lust. Today he lives high on a mountain top
in Tibet. The only sound that escapes his lips is one continuous
and monotonic om. Occasionally he dreams of dictionaries and
silken sheets, of libraries and lust. Nightmares. Brushing them out
of mind he goes back to prayer and chanting. Fasts for a day or two.
© Johnmichael Simon
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