"You need who I used to be."

She curls up on the couch, while we talk. She doesn't play with her hair or act too nervous or excited or scared. At times, you can't even see the fatigue.

But her word choice is slow, and her vocabulary is limited. She isn't sleeping. Neither, I note as the clock ticks past 2:30, am I. But she hasn't been sleeping for days. She got some dramatic news, the kind of news that has a major impact on her life, a few days ago.

My modern self wants to toss out the usual string of platitudes that boil down to "please don't expect me to act like I care about this" and then leave it be. But we have a history, a long one. One that stretches back into the time when I was a boy with a heart and a purpose who thought he could help by listening and being kind.

And she needs that boy now. She wants aid. Shelter. Kindness. Things I no longer provide except by illusion and deceipt. If only she knew half the stories of my life, she'd recoil in either horror or fright. How could the person she once knew turn into the person I became?

Yet I joke about our history, and we tell stories about the people who were seniors when we were sophomores and freshman. Recalling legends and myths about the crew that we consider to be "old" Mercerians. And I point out that now that we are graduated, there are sophomores and juniors who will speak one day of us as "the old crew" and stories will be told of us as we tell them of others.

It's an odd moment, and it almost--almost!--gives me a twinge of regret, to think of the stories I left behind, good and bad, ensembles as a legend of a person no longer present, who can no longer influence the stories that others tell about me.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


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