Juste une fable n° 18
the house was being restored to what it looked like when i was a child. there were ample spaces everywhere, just as things appear when you are small. the parents were dead, of course, but also back to life, and we were all there. the house was huge, and everything that was especially meant for me, everything that was found that had been “little maggie’s” was marked in red.
there were two red tricycles, for instance, though one was more of a scooter and the other a little bike. these things proved to me that i had been loved, even though i had often been forgotten. this now seemed obvious, as even i had forgotten these bikes, these signs of affection, though i must have loved them before.
the garage that i did not go into when i was home, which beckoned as a darkness filled with junk but transpierced by beams of light, became an enormous, warehouse-like space, but with rafters. and it was oddly slipped under the main house. i saw that our family life had been full and had contained many levels.
father was there, i would say, surrounding, for the most part, on foot. and mother was at the center, beautiful, as she was at 47, when they finally went to europe and she earned her philosophy degree.
as for me, i was squirrelly and judgmental. there is no other word for it. i was judging everyone and everything in sight. but i kept my judgments close, only rarely letting them get out. when i did, i would get a reaction from ellen, a strong, swift sense of her own disapproval of my disapproval of her or of tina. then i would get a violent word or a slap.
ondine, there were piles of sand in the bedrooms.
and everything was laid out for the taking as in a bazaar. things i had given, others had given, through the years, laid out for all to see. it was obvious that the structure of the home and many of the things had been beautiful. but the problem was the erosion, the piles of sand.
i could not find a decent place to sleep. the beds would always crumble, then sink into dust. it was impossible to get any sense of comfort or security. so i got up in that world, i wandered around in it, as i often wander in this one.
i encountered children, poverty-struck, hanging around. and i wanted to help them, but i wasn’t sure how, because although their poverty was material, there was something even more serious than that. they were stuck in this sandpile world, that was clear, while i was only a visitor. how could i make the world itself endure? there were women, there always were, who were with me and against me. they were beckoning me to come join them to gossip in a sandy cave.
but i was unwilling, as usual, to throw my lot in with them. i was there instead to make peace with my father, and perhaps even with my mother. we conversed, though we all stayed in separate rooms. there was mutual respect and there was recognition. but the love between, or should i say amongst, us, was seriously on hold.
meanwhile, i was also waiting for a counselor, a guidance person to see what if anything should be done about my own child’s emerging scores. i needed to see whether those that had been reported were “it,” or whether he would have another chance to take that test… i was willing to accept the answer whatever it was, but i thought i owed it to my child and to myself to know, just to know.
that’s how i got involved in a very strange production for my friends and family of en attendant godot.
i was certainly vladimir, a central, intellectual, yet peripheral figure like that. and the star, who i suppose would be lucky, was alice, a girl i know from quebec.
and the other actors?
i am not sure just who they were, but one might have been an avatar of paul, the apostle. he is not impeding my progress in any way, but helping me to find you, and act.
we decided we would do the play as a pantomime, and make it very spontaneous, improvise and all that. we would use, instead of lines and cues, very rough notes. something like the equivalent of jazz charts. and i thought i was on top of everything, knew just what to do.
but before i could lay out my notes or even begin to track them, the production had started. i was surprised to see lucky and paul approaching. was he pozzo? no, i think he was estragon, and some other, unknown person was playing pozzo. the oppressor in this story didn’t matter at all. we were doing it to learn in the manner of a school play, and we were doing it in reverse. what they did forwards in l’esquive, play le jeu de l’amour et du hasard for a school audience of today, we were doing somewhat backwards: we went way back in the sense that we wore 18th-century clothes, but just a little back in the sense that we were performing for people who lived in the sixties: friends, family, and school counselors, but in an unstable world, made mostly out of piles of sand.
lucky and estragon, they were doing everything right, they had remembered what they were doing and were connecting with the spectators even though they were limited to their body language and lip-synching every speech. but i, who had an important role, who was supposed to explain in a way what was happening, draw out the meaning, and deliver the sense of the play, i was totally flustered. i didn’t know my part. when i absolutely had to do something, i just flayed my arms about and gabbed with my open mouth, the way one lectures during a class when one is unprepared. all i could say for myself was that i had at least showed up to wait. i participated and this was better than nothing, because that way, the show could indeed at least go on.
there was a w flying overhead. this letter was very thick but in script. and i really don’t know what it stood for. below, we were kneading, shaping with our fingers wax figures of some sort. by we, i mean me and one other fellow. he was not a relative or a lover, rather, a colleague or co-worker of sorts. and we were trying to think how we could impress messages into the wax and seal them.
we wanted our wax figures, who were thick stick figures in a way, but stretchy, bendy and humanoid, like the kind you used to see around in toy stores or maybe on tv, to have writing on them, in them, and for that writing to be a basic part of their characters, like their texture.
it occurred to me that the only way to achieve this, to make these waxy people legible and at the same time squeezable, something pleasant to handle, would be to encode messages in them with braille. my co-worker smiled at this. we both felt it was ironic that what needed to be secretly, enduringly inscribed should in fact present itself as goosebumps, pointing out.
this got me thinking about saguaros
now that i don’t have to see them
i long to see them
know that the absence of thorns can hurt
Mary Shaw est professeure de littérature française des dix-neuvième et vingtième siècles à l'Université de Rutgers (New Jersey). Outre ses travaux universitaires, elle a publié deux livres pour enfants ainsi qu'un recueil de poésie intitulé Album Without Pictures (2008).