Going Back to the Place You Lived as a Kid for Pictures to Remember

This “short” was retrieved from the personal journal of a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, on the occasion of his reading Gwen McKay’s The Paradox of Changing the World with Words. Shot through with a jumpy, hyper sensibility, its rapid-fire free-association gives way only in the final sentence to a calm, contemplative memory of that brief handful of years remembered better by some than by others, those years when language has not yet come between ourselves and our world.

“The message for me,” writes the author, “both in this short and in [Gwen’s] essay is how the concept of language itself is a huge limitation and barrier for our perceptions and experiences of life and that autism is forcing us to reconsider this aspect of our reality.  The short tries to put into words the aspect of experience we take for granted and don’t talk about but which is a more natural form of perception for some with autism.”

The house was stained an ocher red color that you couldn’t imagine someone consciously deciding to paint it. The steps are still there, though worn and in obvious need of repair and you think this about the city too. And the yard.  It is so small!  What the hell happened to the yard you think?  Did someone shrink it and then bring the fence boundaries and trees in so that it looked like some trick of photography, photo manipulation or digital reconstruction?

The dog, maybe a Schnauzer, is barking at you as if it had never seen you and while this is true you think that somehow it should recognize your aura and how your aura is somehow connected with the aura of the house, the yard, the steps and maybe even the dog.  But the dog doesn’t think this.  She just barks.  Or he. You ponder why dogs are sexually more ambiguous in their femininity than cats and scratch your head as the dog lopes back around the house, ignoring you as you move closer to the fence, your hand touching the steel, which was the same as it had been twenty years ago when you where nineteen and your father and mother and all the things associated with them and their lives at that point in history were collected in this one specific point in space-time and it was not liminal.

You feel claustrophobic and the sun peers down at you, a dull umber yellow, more like burnt toast than gas exploding in nuclear fusion reactions that don’t annihilate anything but instead make your skin feel balmy and warm here in the midwest in June, a place like Chicago or Milwaukee where the summers are usually mild and the winters are a real bitch so you buy mittens to fight off the cold.

The house stares at you as if asking you what it is that you want from it and could you also please explain why you came back after twenty odd years in which you had faded from its memory like the trees which once made up its boards.  You wonder if maybe the house is conscious and that somehow it is communicating with you using not words but symbols and how maybe the magnetic field of the sun along with the solar winds and flares and ionic particles are not any of that at all but just some other part of the house and you and the sun and you and you begin to think that this line of thinking might make you crazy and you suddenly feel relieved that you can apply that word to it, crazy, and how by doing so it suddenly isn’t so scary and is no longer part of you but something else over there like placing a fence between you and it in your mind.

You think the house looks like a head, like your head maybe and that if so, then you and your family and the peoples you didn’t know whom also slept there, fought there and considered it somehow their own, were really more like memories to the house.  You tried to imagine what you would do if that bizarre idea you had in fifth grade of a horse crossed with an elephant came walking up to you and introduced itself and expected you to somehow be okay with this.  Of course, you realize that the house wouldn’t describe such an event with words but would instead accomplish it through other means that seemed vaguely like things people either believed in or didn’t and were willing to argue their point knowing they might be wrong and there was no proof either way.

You recalled vague memories of some weird Mayan apocalypse you saw on tv, maybe a Nostradamus special, or were told about by a friend or something in which they believed that objects like plants, houses and spoons were going to turn on people and punish them or thank them for how they were treated.  The Mayans were an irrational, aboriginal people though and you knew how those types believed in weird stuff from your anthropology classes in college and you felt certain that your house would not visit you someday to extract penalty for the window you broke at thirteen, besides it was an accident anyway and if the house could do those things the weird Mayans believed, surely it would remember that it was an accident that it happened and that surely conscious, non-human entities would also allow for mistakes which happened that were an accident and unintended like the way rocks fell from mountains and caused avalanches.

You go back to your car, metal and plastic, and you sit and try to sense what it is you feel here in this place occupied by your body and head, memories, nostalgia, lost time, caught time, things out of joint.  You think about Hamlet and how you hated that fucking play and then you crack a cigarette which you think you want to be at one with in a cosmic sense and put it to your mouth while lighting a fire at the end and allowing the flames to change its state of matter to something like the wind which you can inhale into yourself like water. You turn the car on, the engine coughing like you feel the urge to do yourself but decide not to do, and then you drive down the street and look back at the house noticing how the windows in the front look curiously like eyes and how you had forgotten that you remembered thinking the same thing when you were four or five or at some age before you counted or learned how to talk.

[image: tinyfroglet, via flickr]

on 11/8/10 in featured, Language | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Gwen McKay says:

    I’m glad to have been the inspiration for this vividly written stream of consciousness piece. :)

    Also, great illustration Mark — those are some creepy eyes!

Leave a Reply