Living on the edges
I’m a self-appointed pariah, a teasing trespasser, my own imposter and ruler over my sluttish mind’s chanting warriors. I like to stalk, to skirt the edges of the tribe, watching their fires burn anew with the fuel of my forest, their meals shared without mindgames, their laughter unabashed - lucky sods.
I’m always careful not to be seen. From the shadows that lick my favourite bush when their flames grow tall, I watch, hardly move a muscle, but they know I’m there, hiding, watching, waiting to be noticed, to be told off for who I am not. They’re actually a kind bunch but I’ll never belong - not on your nelly. It’s just not in me to be even mildly serene. Too comfortable and homely. They know I relive my trauma over and over, that I flinch when a twig snaps underfoot, when a strange shadow appears next to me. I’ll never disturb their peace, even when I do.
I’ve tried the lion’s roar but they just laugh it off as a catcall, and when my lewd impersonations of a wolf howling to the moon are taken out of all context by whispering whistleblowers, I scurry off to whichever tree will have me, but they know I’ll be back, that I was never too far gone, watching behind my favourite bush for signs of betrayal. I’m well aware it’s a futile protest, that my objection is to myself. I’m filled with fear, but they know that. That’s why they let me stay. Just desserts spells stressed backwards and no one can change that.
To err is human but the news is my most animating muse, so my obnoxious monster sketches are taken to be dreadful threats, powerful kindling for a dry forest. One or another of the tribe always seems to find time to pluck my demented scribbles from the floor when they stray away from the fire, into my domain, and I was initially surprised to know they never throw them away. Oh no, they smuggle them away to their own tent, where they snicker alone, away from the pack. Everyone does it. I’ve heard them. They press my folded words into eachother’s palms like letters from a bananas thespian. I am pleased to say that I refresh the parts other bayers cannot reach, so I know it’s not a complete waste of time. Another admission to my woeful mind is that I scare myself through its distraction and make myself as ugly as possible.
I like to stalk the tribe from where all manner of sound can be heard. It’s safer that way. I can’t get reeled in from there, not that I’d ever allow it. I like living on the edges, just like my father. He used to tell me, puffing away on a stick, that progress will always be found wanting as long as we’re ruled by ignorance, so there’s no hope of progress in my book. Inventors will tell you the truth if you ask nicely and promise not to tell anyone else, but most people betray them. Besides, it would be awful for business. I never asked my dad enough questions.
It’s not warm here, especially at night, but you get used to that after a while. It’s a small sacrifice. If my family was a circle, my mother and sisters would be inside that warm circle while Dad and I would be little circles orbiting the circle, never crossing paths. Sad. Maybe that’s why I’m here.
I never saw eye to eye with Dad but now he’s dead, I see more of him in me every day. Does that mean I’m losing myself or gaining a friend? Maybe I’ll be set free from my torment when Mum goes. I don’t know. Living alone in a forest isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. They say show me the seven-year-old and I’ll show you the man. Maybe there’s some truth in it - that was when I first saw the arcade fire by the sea, when all the trouble started.
The air is clean on the edges, though. I know I’ll find no respite from my pain here but I’m not leaving. Even if a hand was offered to me, my heart would probably not recognize it. My trouble isn’t the happy troopers I watch chatting by the fire, or even the invisible madmen that cut us all up into bits – it’s me - but I do wonder what they really think of us, those madmen in the city. Are we really just a bastard army of ants who pay for their sins? Are the wishes of their prehistoric ant queen so important?
Those nature programs are wild, with the birds, the animals, the fishes, mammals, insects, whatever they are, all fighting among themselves. They’re all the same, species bonded by bloodlust, terror, trauma, having a smashing time ripping eachother apart, teaching their young how to kill as they tear away at carcasses like they were patches of grass, only looking up to see if someone bigger’s about to eat them. Maybe we’re all part of the same thing, the desperate fight for survival in the wild.
I have to admit that I feel like a young, abandoned chimp who doesn’t know his arse from his ears. Whether to trust an older chimp who shows me friendship, however cautiously, has always been an issue – that’s why I’m here - but maybe it’s time to take his hand in mine and see what happens. The worst he can do is clump me over the head and push me off the tree. I do long to be part of a family, though. It’s natural, I suppose.