Juste une fable n° 38
so what were we doing in the arms of phil? that lanky son of swedes who i was never drawn to, whose parents had been professors where i once trod uphill? i believe it was he who first uttered the syllables
phil was born and raised there. from him, i heard of this institution in the east. then, once more, 10 years later, i met people at a party, three, in the village, professors who seemed hip.
and then 26 years, where the state has given me everything, in the form of security
of steady plodding and earth.
that's why you were lying in phil's arms, phil who was always sad about me, but mostly in love with a vision that he couldn't muster, waiting for a soul sister off somewhere in the wings.
olivier also waiting in the wings,
closer to the action was andrew. he'd decided to go with me back to college and the gym at the place where i'd been studying in arizona, and he was trying to console me, as also was my mother, for the trouble i was having comprehending numbers.
i didn't have the patience, the confidence to listen. my eyes could never focus on abstract lines or figures. but whenever the teacher used her words, began to cast a story problem, my troubled mind faltered even worse.
the questions that can grab me? never how much, where, how, but only why, and when
is all of this happening?
so to make me feel better that i wouldn't be graduating because math was required this second time around
and you had dropped it three times,
andrew was going to retrieve me. we were going to exercise together, meet up at the gym.
i knew that after he wanted also to connect with one of his friends. but i was touched that he agreed to meet me at my college, for the complications in getting there were endless, despite the flexible character of time and space
in this sphere that was becoming home.
but what moved me even further was when andrew let me follow him to a picnic later, and we came upon my mother atop a grassy hill. there she popped up, beautiful lise of the disarming smile and raven hair. somewhere in the late fifties, somewhere in her early forties
she said it wasn't a problem i wouldn't be passing due to figures. she too had flunked arithmetic at this very same college, when it was standing like a dove in the desert decades ago.
and you were grateful?
i was, for this tender-hearted blessing. and happy to see those open and amused green-gray eyes, instead of my own harsh
shining clumps of blackened snow.
and then andrew and i returned. but this happened only after many a car breakdown and trouble with reception from our cell phones. for we lingered to do rock-climbing with cora along the way.
andrew's friend, and she had also brought her mother, eva, who was korean and lovely, and could teach me how to sew. i wanted to learn to embroider something beautiful to sleep in.
she was willing if i promised to look,
listen, and pay close attention.
i tried, but could hardly make more progress stitching figures than i had before calculating with shapes and numbers, for the children went dashing off. and we soon had to follow, if ever we wanted to get back from the hills to the living lands below.
it wasn't that i feared disconnection from andrew and cora. eva showed me we could hook one of my flip-flops with a fishing line to the window of their fast-moving machine. this is a trick mothers learn all over the orient to never lose track of their children. it keeps the generations in place, though it also
leads to terrible tangles,
crossing a wire of mine with andrew's before we were through.
but once those lines were sorted, i got where i needed to be going, ready once more to greet and receive you,
first and last, ondine.
and i found you near the same grassy hill where i'd been speaking to my mother. it was kind of you to wait there, patiently biding your time, while i layed still doing nothing, but humming under the blue sky, consoling myself for hours.
but where exactly was i, mother?
you were in the pond called melancholy, in the long, thin arms of phil.
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).