Thursday, June 25, 2009

Other People


Do you remember how memory used to work when you were a kid?

There’s so much information that’s swimming through your head, and its all been accumulated over the past few hours.

Days seem like weeks and weeks seem like years, and years are incomprehensible. And a few years into the past, and the record just stops. There is nothing, except vague feelings, and smells, and freeze frames that you’ve tried to define so many times, you have no idea what they originally were.

These are thoughts that don’t sit well within the square and round pegs of the wonderful young world. Everyday is yet mesmerizing, everything is in technicolour... and so you look resolutely outward.

There comes a time, however, when you cant help but start to really look closely. Then, you see your neighbours.

It's like a mirror that isn't quite right. They seem so hauntingly similar to you, but so inescapably alien. A kind of grotesque mimicry.

"Is it just imitating me?"

"Am I just imitating it?"

How is it then, that for all their differences, there seem to be some universal cardinal rules, some common cogwheels, that seem to be guiding all of their beings?

Instinct suggests that we may empathize with them, because somehow, even though we can never truly know another's perspective, we trust that it is compatible with ours.

The young have no faith, but they may be prompted to the most obvious seeming solution by their caretakers or peers...that of an invisible designer, a universal parent.

The skeptics resist this, and search for some constant more palatable to their respective tastes.

Dot feels this too. He feels alien to them all, but at the same time a kind of longing compassion and fascination for them. It surprises him, just how he is simultaneously able to completely understand such a strange thing as another consciousness, and be baffled by it too.

They all do. They all ask the same question, when they think of Other People:

"Did we all Breathe the same?''


[At this point, Dot is a fairly small person. He is also male, although this is purely for the sake of argument. It also means that his name will be of considerable discomfiture to him throughout his life. But this is convenient, because we all must have One Flaw we carry close to our hearts. His is clear before him, in his name.]


The lady is old. Her face is very close, every wrinkle is etched like a ridge in a desert land, every feature a mighty crag that seems faraway and remote, telling of uncounted years of history, and weathered to indifference by immeasurable time.

And as she's looking down at him, her eyes, red and puffy, widen in recognition.

"Dot! Get out of here! This is the teacher's bathroom! GET OUT!!"

Naturally, a quick exit is made.

There will be trouble for this. It was an honest mistake, but this was clearly not a mistake that should have been made.

The adult world seemed to be full of them. On the one hand, he was given to understand that there were right things and wrong things, and some of these he understood instinctively. But there seemed to be some rules he didn't follow at all, yet without warning he'd occasionally break one, and breaking them had severe consequences.

And boy, would the consequences be severe in this case.

Mrs. Dalte was his least favourite teacher. While the others were warm and doted on the kids, she was curt, had little patience with everything that lay within the wide definition of something she called "nonsense", and seemed to blink altogether too little.

There was another quality about her that was unsettling to Dot. Most adults seemed to have two sides to them: the first was the bright, playful, mollycoddling and appealing attitude they seemed to possess when speaking to him and other kids his age. And the other, far-off and reserved and mysterious, which would reveal itself when he would overhear them in conversation with another adult, or when they thought he wasn't looking.

She, on the other hand, seemed to have only one side to her. It was quiet, and it knew what you were thinking, and it was already telling you it was a bad idea.

And the other teachers seemed to not like her a great deal either. She would speak little with them, and they would often look at her with what he could only guess was fear, or anger.

In a strange way, though, everyone seemed to trust her. It was another unsettling thing about her. When there was trouble, or an emergency, like when a kid got hurt, everyone would seem to turn to her. They trusted her. She wasn't going to stand for any nonsense, and she would undoubtedly scare the trouble away.

Which is why today made no sense.

It was decidedly odd. As it was, Dot had trouble understanding bodily shame. He couldn't understand what was so unappealing about his body to others, especially since his parents seemed to be quite comfortable with it. But he had been given to understand that one's physical self was an unwelcome sight to others...and so would others guard their own bodies with great ferocity. Which he didn't mind, because he had no idea what an adult body would even look seemed to be something entirely different from his own.

Anyway, so although he didn't quite get it, he could accept bodily shame. But in the incident that had just occurred...well, Mrs. Dalte seemed to have been caught in an entirely different kind of intimate act. It wasn't bodily at all.

As he got squeezed back into his chair in class, he tried to remember her face when he'd opened the door. Then he tried to reconcile it with the face he had seen for the past few months, and come to know and fear as Mrs. Dalte. It didn't work. Maybe this was her missing other side.

He could hardly believe it, but he was almost sure she had been crying.

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