Issue 106, Spring 1988
He was born before his time, and since it was not his time had to be put back in and born again. He would not stay in the crib. His mother thought he had wings. She thought he could fly around the room. But he did not have wings. He had fins. Small fins, black and oily, which he soon lost. He could speak Aramaic, but forgot how to speak k when he lost his fins. His mother was an Irish maid in a rich Paraguayan household. No one knew who his father was, except his mother. He was born with black hair, which turned to gold in two days, which turned red three days after that. The colors of his eyes went from brown to blue to hazel in one week. In place of a little finger on his left hand he had a claw which curled back against his hand. He was quiet for seven months, then he screamed for one month, then he was quiet for three years, spoke seven words over the next four months, remained quiet for the next year, then spoke perfectly accented Castillian Spanish in his sixth year despite the fact that no one around him spoke a word of Spanish. German and English were the preferred languages, isolated in a sea of Spanish. Because he had been born twice, he was a person within a person, just as German and English were languages within a language.
He matriculated at the Ecole de Naturalis Historia where he communicated by writing notes on a tablet or filling a large blackboard with legible script in white chalk whose dust formed long ridges on the floor. Because of his silent ways he was teased by his classmates until he raked one of them on the cheek with his claw, carving a musical signature, a clef, which sighed when the carved-up boy slept at night. The boy’s parents, an unmusical family, demanded restitution from him, and he agreed, though he was puzzled. Which one of me do you want restitution from? he asked. They were not amused, and they boxed his ears. There, they said, which one of you feels the pain? He excelled in mathematics and botany, and started to grow wings in his twelfth year, a phenomenon which he hid by wearing several shirts, even while bathing. At the age of thirteen the wings dropped off, replaced by acne which was oily, facial hair, enlarged testicles, and a changing voice. His eyes were hazel, his hair gold and his arms well muscled. He lifted heavy things for his classmates who were generally too rich and spoiled to do much lifting for themselves and who prided themselves on their flabby arms. He was known for his fine singing voice, though he hardly spoke. When he was fourteen his hair turned red. He began to see great things; he called them pictures in his mind, and told his classmates about them. In great detail he saw mountains and buildings split apart and gigantic waves of water spurting forth, engulfing everything around them. The waves would go through people and change them into fish. His classmates sat waiting for the school buildings to explode, and for the giant waves that would come. They argued about what kind of fish they would become. He told girls that he could give them birds, that he had great eagles stored inside his body. He told his teachers that rocks were plants, that stone grew, that boulders had a living heart. He started to lift rocks and throw them, waiting for them to explode and pour out birds and rivers. He talked for days with angels who danced on the heads of pins, patiently explaining to him how many others of their kind danced along with them. He sat on words, turned them over, threw them at one another. He walked underneath signs and stared at the letters so hard he thought they would fall off. Banging the rocks against his head he tried to press the poetry into his brain, tried to press the stone logic that sat on the membrane of the rock. The angels told him to dress profusely, which he did, as if the very idea of clothing was an anointment, as if pants and shirts were benediction. I used to be a noun, he thought, now I am a verb. He met a beautiful girl and wanted to give her the fish that was swimming through his body, the fish that was swimming in his blood, and he wanted to give her the bird that was in his body, the bird that flew through his chest and he told her he could give her both of these great gifts, these magnificent gifts, these unique gifts, through a hole in his penis, but that he had to place the penis inside her body to make sure the fish would not swim away into the night air and to make sure that the bird would not fly towards the sunshine but that both fish and bird would remain inside her body, growing, until the time when they would be set free and climb towards the sun. That would be magnificent, he thought, and shuddered, thinking that the very splendor of it frightened him, that it was a bronze thought, a copper thought, perhaps a gold thought, that his body was not sufficient to contain the reflected shimmer of these metals. Great things can happen inside me, he explained to the girl. Then, with an immense weariness, he looked at his hands, as if he expected them to speak, as if his fingernails were tongues, his thumbs a mouth. He rolled on the ground. He picked up his foot and looked at his toes. He did not want to be understood, or misunderstood. He waited for an emotion, regretting that he had no anger. It is time to be honest, time to speak about this, he said. Some of his classmates thought he was the devil. You have wings, they said. No I don’t, he said, showing them the scars on his back and sides where the wings used to be. He told them to feel his head; I have no horns, I have no tail he said, lowering his pants. But something inside him twisted and turned.