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The Land of Strange: A Boy's Tale

There was a boy who looked out at the world of words, and was confused. They were like invisible strings criss-crossing everywhere he went, with everyone he met. And whatever he did, here, and then there, he would run into one of the fine gossamer threads and the big old spider would descend. For the boy, words were just that, an invisible spider’s web, and him, the ant.


This same boy always found himself looking at the world of words and people from the outside, like the child who is not invited to the party, like missing the first bit of a story and constantly trying to catch up. The unspoken rules connecting all the words…the things that happen between people. Not surprising. He grew up in a house of silence. He never saw people really speak about anything. The boy had no one to teach him about words, and how if you use a word here something completely unexpected and (usually not very nice) will happen somewhere else, and there, and over there. A net of sticky threads, invisible but very real.


The boy did not know it at the time, but there were other boys and girls like him, who did not naturally understand the web, who just didn’t get it like the others seem to do. Perhaps that is why it took him over three years to say his first words. The thing is, the boys’ brain worked a little different than others. He used words a little like coloured pencils, when other people used them like paint. In his head it was clear. A word meant something very specific, after all, that is why there are dictionaries, so no one should be confused. The boy loved reading dictionaries. This word means this, always, and has absolutely nothing to do with how it is said or when it is said or in what voice it is said. It should be simple, or so the boy thought. Like pencils.


With time the boy learned that the stickiness of words had to do with feelings. This was confusing. Apparently, it is not about saying a word and the other person hearing the word and knowing what you are trying to say. No. It is about the word, and the way the word is said, and all the other words that are said at the same time, and words that have been said in the past, and the way the other person feels about the one saying the words, and how they are feeling today, and how you feel about them, and the difference in age and importance between the people speaking, and the place they are in, and whether they were friends or if this was the boss.


The boy learned that there was not just a sticky web, but a confusing tangle of stickiness around words and what happens between people. A sticky mess. And when he tried to navigate this stickyness he would get upset and confused, and to make everything worse, then say even more words that would get him all tangled up and completely misunderstood and simply miserable.


The boy learned it was easier to listen and speak as little as possible. He learned to listen to the words of others and then speak in the same way and say the same things, just a little different. He learned that if you did this people were happy, no one got upset. This seemed like a good solution. Avoid the words, only copy the words of others.


And so it was that inside of the boy whole worlds were born where he would escape into. Worlds where there was no stickiness. And in the outside world he just seemed shy and sweet and nice. But the lesson he learned was that it is easier to shut up because sometimes people strangle you or beat you until you piss yourself if you get the words wrong. The spider. The boy was terrified of spiders. Words and the stuff between people were sticky, and it hurt.


The boy became a young man. He always felt behind everyone else. He never understood how things work. Girls, for example. That was confusing. Because girls really liked words, and not just the words, but they used so many and so fast. And it was all a big mess of words and feelings and a labyrinth of confusing meanings that he could not decipher. Maybe that is why the boy wanted to become a coroner – people are so much easier to understand if they stop saying and feeling things.


The boy did not know how to say what he felt. He kept it all inside. And as he became a young man he had to work really hard. He was angry. Because it was too much. And anger cuts through the webs and tangles and stickiness and returns the world to a place of white and black. But letting out the anger was even worse than the words. And so, he kept that inside as well. He was a nice young man.


Until the young man starting having relationships. Real relationships with sex and everything. The girls said he was too intense, because getting close to him meant that they felt all the stuff locked inside, the pressure, and sometimes it would come out. And then he was not nice.


It wasn’t that he was cruel or wanted to hurt anything. Just like the pressure cooker is not trying to hurt or burn you. But he did. And his own pain was too great and there was no space for still taking care of anything or anyone else. And over the years the pressure kept building. More and more the pain inside seeped out. And in the process, he hurt many.


Some would say the boy, now a young man, was cruel and selfish. This would not be wrong. For he left behind many with broken hearts because he simply forgot to pretend to care, because he simply did not see them beyond his own desperate and distorted attempts at closeness and intimacy. He did many things which later in life he would be ashamed of, but he did these out of desperation, desperately lost in the stickyness of words and feelings and relationships. Desperately unable to make sense of where he stopped and another began. Desperate, because people and words are just too sticky. 


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