soul on ice

GARBAGE, I remember that word. Or rather another word, the Estonian one. Prügi. In Estonian, the vowels matter. They are of significance. One loose vowel and you’re gone and misinterpreted. This was a long time ago, and so I said prugi instead of prügi. Kus prugi on? Where is the trash? Or trush? The nurse at the Tallinn Central Hospital squinted at me and then realized what I was trying to say. “Oh, prügi. Oh, trash.” That was on the cold night that my first child came into the world. Almost 18 years ago. It was an occasion. I held her in my arms and looked into her strange eyes. Newborns take a while to comprehend their surroundings. That’s how that all started. These days I feel a kind of sagging or pulling feeling in me. I feel my soul on ice, to quote Eldridge Cleaver. Cleaver was an Arkansan, a drug dealer, a rapist (with intent to murder), but also a journalist (go figure), a Minister of Information, a presidential candidate, a political refugee, a Mormon, a conservative Republican, and, toward the end, a crack cocaine-addicted burglar. He also, for a time, cultivated a relationship with North Korea. My story has been simpler. I feel part of my soul though is freezing. It’s freezing and I do not feel it can ever be thawed. Indifference comes in with the cold, even on hot July days. Beige blasé indifference. Blasé-sur-Ennui. I will get through this, eventually. Will I be the same? And when you give up on something, what’s to stop you from giving up on everything else, bit by bit, question by question, until you start using that other Estonian phrase, ükskõik, “one-all,” whatever and ever? Where to next? Just ask Eldridge, I guess. Denunciations follow, then a ticket to Cuba and to Algeria. After that, Paris. Where else?

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