Readings — From the December 2009 issue

Masquerades

( 2 of 4 )

As a child I used to save old cotton spools. I loved them with a sorrowful love—how vividly I remember—since their not being real filled me with compassion. . . . One day I laid my hands on some miscellaneous chess pieces, and what happiness that was! I immediately thought of names for them all, and they passed into my dream world.

All these figures took on definite features. They had distinct lives. One of them, who I had decided was rowdy and liked sports, lived inside a box on top of my dresser, where each afternoon a streetcar passed by when I, and then he, would come home from school. The streetcar was made of the interiors of matchboxes, strung together somehow by wire.

O my dead childhood! Forever living corpse in my breast! When I remember these toys I had as a boy already getting older, a sensation of tears warms my eyes, and a fierce and useless longing gnaws at me like a regret. All of that happened and has remained frozen and visible—seeable—in my past, in my perpetual idea of my bedroom from back then, spread out around my childhood person (who is unseeable except from within) going from my dresser to the nightstand, and from the nightstand to my bed, driving through the air the primitive streetcar that I imagined was part of the citywide network and that took my ridiculous wooden schoolmates home.

I endowed some of them with bad habits—-smoking, stealing—but I’m not sexually inclined, and their only acts in this line were, I believe, a predilection for kissing girls and peeking at their legs, which seemed to me mere acts of play. I made them smoke rolled paper behind a large box that was on top of a suitcase. Sometimes a schoolteacher would come around. And it was with all their anxiety, which I obliged myself to feel, that I quickly hid the false cigarette and placed the smoker—who struck me as curiously nonchalant—at the corner to wait for the inevitable passing of the teacher, whom he greeted I don’t remember exactly how. . . . Sometimes the figures were too far apart for me to move this one with one arm and that one with the other. I had to make them move alternately. This pained me the way it pains me today not to be able to give expression to a life. . . .

Ah, but why do I remember this? Why didn’t I remain a child forever? Why didn’t I die there, in one of those moments, preoccupied with the wiles of my schoolmates and the as-if–unexpected arrival of my schoolteachers?

Today I can’t do this. . . . Today I have only reality, which I can’t play with. . . . Poor little boy exiled in his manliness! Why did I have to grow up? Today, when I remember this, I feel nostalgia for other things besides all this. More in me than my past has died.

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