tremendum

Image: CometWhat happens is, as a kid you search for signs of what is making the world move. The central facts seem spooky and you suspect some indefinably freaky cloaked center to it that is not friendly. The hunch is that all this grandness is by its nature momentous and somehow terrible. Well, it’s provably an arc of the retrograde variety. Firm, thrumming, electrified flesh reduces to a spotty beige bag filled with articulated goo, and in the last days the cranial vault houses an increasingly assertive id, discomfiting many. But these are remote, fabulist phenomena. They can’t be named and kids don’t fear them, there is a vague wonder and kind of dread, but nothing as concrete as fear. The Grand Inevitables are in evidence, but as kids we can’t begin to guess what they signify. We drop ants into hot tar and note with interest that they do not seem alarmed. We skin our knees and, denied the gift of invective, scream like maddened banshees. We don’t know we are young and whole, our faculties fastened together with seamless joinery and a sprayed, fragrant patina of skin so form-fitting it seems literally impossible it will ever become the rubberized paper we see on the old and mustachioed. We move somnolently about in the sun and rain and are violable and happy without knowing we are happy. We don’t know we are violable. We’re incautious. A gun goes off and a kid is taken away from the world. You there; you step out onto the street in front of your high school and a passing van clubs you to death, or you are dragged 60 feet beneath a Volkswagen Beetle, as happened to a fresh-faced Happy-Go-Lucky in my high school. More frequently the pattern comes clear during 3rd grade recess. Betty or Amber or Lisa bails off the swing in a high, thrilling arc, her arms windmilling through the blue at dreamy half-speed. While you watch the girl you secretly adore, your half-smiling mouth agape, the little bench dances back on its chains and smashes your teeth. When I was six I was made to understand that the whole of the flat earth under my Keds was actually a round rock, a rock resting on nothing, a rock so enormous that at any given point of contact it seems as flat as a table. It’s not flat and at rest. It’s round and adrift. Adrift. A floating rock amid an endless field of other suspended rocks, unspeakably gigantic, drifting around like debris. Only a floating rock! Our whole ‘World’! 1966. I laid me down on the lawn in our sunny side yard, legs shaking with a pure vertiginous panic, and dug my fingers into the sod. For all the good it did.

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