Day 854, November 3, 2022

Wild Thing

On the way home, I gliding in the tailwind of a passing car, we startled a deer standing beside the road. I think he was all composed when the car passed, but my appearance moments later on my silent steed festooned with lights and wearing screaming yellow accoutrements, was just too much and the deer reared off into the woods with a heavy crashing that belied its size and weight. I don’t often see a deer lose its composure and display its wildness. I called out a greeting, but even so, it was a little frightening to be so close to such unbridled musculature. 

It reminded me of a time when I was in high school, and because I had been working in a soup kitchen for several months, I thought I had a particular talent for connecting with homeless people and the down trodden. Once, while visiting the Boston Common with a few friends, I saw a man with dirty backpack sitting by a fountain. Filled with hubris, I walked up to him and tried to introduce myself. He reared up in fright and started circling around the fountain screaming for me to stay away from him. It was then I noticed he was wearing some kind of military fatigues, which was a kind of fashion for teens back then, but for him seemed like what might have remained of a uniform, a prior life. I backed away, also fearful, also suddenly aware of his sinewy wildness. Looking back, I imagine he might have been a Vietnam veteran, and probably the last thing he wanted to see was a young Asian man speaking to him in English. Get away! He screamed as he skittered around the perimeter of the fountain until he reached his backpack again. I retreated to the comfort of my friends, embarrassed, and watched as he collected his things and disappeared into the traffic of people.

When I was in grade school, we put on a production of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. I was cast a wild thing. We practiced at gnashing our terrible teeth, and slashing with our terrible claws. In art class, we did set design, painting leaves on trees, and at some point, cutting teeth into a cardboard whale’s head. Somehow, in my wild uncontrollable child-self, I slipped with the X-acto knife and plunged the blade into the palm of my hand. It is too dark in the room to tell if there is still a scar there, and even if it is, I would probably need to put on my glasses to see it. I can only imagine the art teacher trying to maintain composure with a screaming child, blood spilling on the half painted white whale, the other children pale faced and gawping, or jumping up and down and pointing and laughing. As a wild thing, I was mostly a failure. I was too slight and shy to be truly imposing, more monkey than monster. I always imagined having a wildness inside, like Dr. Banner in the Incredible Hulk, but nothing like that would manifest no matter how many slights and pokes with X-acto knives I would endure.


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