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  • Writer's pictureLori Brack


24. Umbrella in the Cafe

Do you ever think of yourself, late to your meeting or peed your pants some or sent the private e-mail to the group or burned the soup or ordered your cortado with your fly down or snot on your face or opened your umbrella in the bakery, as the cutest little thing?

Ross Gay is the poet who wrote about Eric Garner's murder. Now that I've read The Book of Delights by Gay (thanks Katrina, for this sweet birthday gift), I understand how he made something beautiful out of something so evil.

The very short essays in The Book of Delights are each based on something that made the writer stop and wonder - delight - on a separate day. The excerpts I love (along with the entire essayettes 75: Bindweed . . . Delight? and 96. The Marfa Lights):

10. Writing by Hand

I can tell you a few things - first, the pen, the hand behind the pen, is a digressive beast. It craves, in my experience anyway, the wending thought, and crafts/imagines/conjures a syntax to contain it. On the other hand, the process of thinking that writing is, made disappearable by the delete button, makes a whole part of the experience of writing, which is the production of a good deal of florid detritus, flotsam and jetsam, all those words that mean what you have written and cannot disappear (the scratch-out its own archive), which is the weird path toward what you have come to know, which is called thinking, which is what writing is.

76. Dickhead

When we went home crying to our mom (my brother more from the pinching than the cursing, which I suspect he was glad for the excuse to do), she found the kid and read him the riot act, calling him a gutter mouth, telling him that Rossy and Matty are not going to be little gutter mouths like him, before telling him he would probably grow up to be a child molester. She was fucking his ass up. I remember him listening quite calmly, almost demure, calling my mother Mrs. Gay and suggesting he would not become a child molester. I think Tim was probably right, and was just in a sadistic phase, not unlike my own at around twelve.

80. Tomato on Board

And when we landed, and the pilot put the brakes on hard, my arm reflexively went across the seat, holding the li'l guy [a tomato plant] in place, the way my dad's arm would when he had to brake hard in that car without seatbelts to speak of, in one of my very favorite gestures in the encyclopedia of human gestures.

88. Touched

All of these examples make clear that touched often also means exuberant or enthusiastic, both of which qualities can provoke in us, when we are feeling small and hurtable, something like embarrassment, which again maybe points to the terror at our own lurking touchedness. When I watched the child doing his wonky unselfconscious moonwalk, I had a feeling that I might have then identified as embarrassment, aware of this kid's obliviousness, his immersion - his delight.

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