Italics. I am in italics. I am canted slantwise toward the world. I pretend that the Roman numeral was modeled on me—the number for one. One alone, to be my own. . . .
I will never hear.
I am the ellipsis. I am discreetly edited out.
I am trapped in the subjunctive tense. Quisiera. I would have wanted. Perdiera. I would have missed. I would have. You know I would have.
Or at least you can imagine.
Other lives are bold or plain or underlined. Other lives are struck through—and I envy them. Those sweet lives conceived and sheltered (before their terminus) in a way I have never known. But I would know, if I could know, what it would be like. I will never know.
I am clawing my way through layers of the subjunctive tense only to reach someone who I suspect would never have been there anyway; I would never have existed if the person who would save me could exist.
I know nothing and so I can doubt nothing; but if I could doubt I would doubt God.
I would have been so angry at you who will not let me—will not let me—you will not even let me learn the words for what you will not let me do! Oh I am not. You are, but I am not. Use me, because I am not. Keep me, it is only safe to keep me because I am not.
I am the least sympathetic character in the history of literature. (This is especially true since I am not in the history of literature; only in its alternate history.)
Is there such a thing as the opposite of a legal fiction?
I will be useful; at any rate, I’ll be used. If I had culture I could think of my scattered cells as the spilling seeds of the pomegranate, the fruit of the dead spilling out in a springtime of cures. Tweeze cell from cell and flay what’s not yet flesh.
If I had culture I could see the snakes on the caduceus hovering above my cradle.
I would be so angry if I knew. You are right to never let me know.
Oh, but it could have been you! Oh, but it should have been you! It should have been you, trapped here, it should never have been me!
But I cannot think that, for I have not attained and will not attain the age of reason. I would think, if I could think, that the age of reason is sometime much later than the age of consent.
I will never remember thin pink candles that melted onto the frosting of the cake, the taste of crumbly wax. I will never miss them. So there are some things for which I could be grateful, if I could be grateful.
Someday they will see me. When the old are young I will be only as young as you.
To you, I am a contrary-to-fact clause. But perhaps it is more true to say I am just a contrary fact. I am stuck here: able neither to unhappen nor to become. It seems very stupid.
But how should I know; perhaps it is stupider out where you are.
I am your caesura. My purpose is to pause between the words you meant to say.
I am your speaking silence.
Eve Tushnet is a writer in Washington, D.C. She is a Yale alumna
and blogs at eve-tushnet.blogspot.com.