I am a man of many hues was the first line of poetry I ever wrote. I remember the feeling. For the first time I thought of words as material, me as someone who might arrange and give voice to the poet I understood to speak through them. I was eleven, prepubescent, pre-complex.
So often since I’ve longed to return to that boy and hold his hand or tear him apart. I envy him the uncomplicated freshness of his experience and the choices he had. If only I’d have been around to say, “That feeling you have - nurture it patiently. The world is going to pull at you and make demands on you. Its going to break you, convince you there’s more to life than self-discovery, that there’s something else called self-determination. But the truth is simpler and so fleeting, its almost impossible to hold.”
He’d probably look at me confused. And how could I even begin without confessing to him the mistakes I made on his behalf. “I’m sorry,” I’d say, “that I only know what I’m telling you for having found out the hard way. I know you’re young and what good is it to pour my heart out for you?”
Even then he was more shy than he let on, his habit of seeking worthiness in accolade and impression was gaining the strength that would later turn his whole world into an illusion.
Seven times I’ve tried to find that boy. Seven times I’ve tried to remember him. This is the eighth time.
On all previous occasions I was successful at first. There was the time I found him in a preschool playground telling a story to some kids about being scared. Then I dragged him into the city and dressed him like a magician and told him to perform for his future. That was a mistake, understandably he ran as fast as he could.
Next time I saw him he was chasing bubbles in a park. I picked him up and gave him to a woman I barely knew, told him to take care of her. That just about broke his heart - from what I can tell he is still missing a piece. Actually I did that twice. Poor little dude.
One time I bought him some tools. He was so excited. Then I demanded that he build me a complicated piece of furniture in which I might store a host of shapeless instruments that I intended to need and keep at a later date. He tried to please me by coming up with a number of good ideas, but in the end he didn’t have the skills and the whole endeavour became a chore. I forced him to work even when he’d given up, and eventually I blamed him for the project’s failure. Oomph.
You’d think I’d have learned after all that what it is to care for. But instead when I saw him next I instructed him to save the whole world. Ha! Imagine that. I told him he could if he only tried hard enough. He didn’t protest, I suppose even for all the bullshit he trusted me.
The other two times were a little more innocuous, then I only asked him to be an expert in a field.
Now here we are, and this time feels different. For one thing it isn’t black and white. In some ways he needs me. He’s only eleven after all. I’ve learned to be a teacher and a guide, maybe I can mentor him. Maybe this is my chance to bring him to life, to hear his voice.
Or maybe this is all just deluded ramblings of self-obsessed narcissistic mediocrity with a dash of mania and a wellspring of depression. I guess time will tell.