Average American Children


He was gruff, at first, explaining that it’d been hell to be alive for the past few days.

“All I can do is hide. I curl myself into a little ball and I pull the blankets over my head. It’s all I can do. If I walk down the street, I wait for the fastest car and then I think about jumping in front of it.”

He was a big man, wearing a Nascar hat. She listened to what he was saying and thought about how if she’d seen this man in a grocery store, she’d have never thought he’d ever think about wanting to die.

Writing this, she realizes that she’s been making assumptions about what people do and do not think about. She realizes she’s been writing them all wrong, for months and for years.

Everybody thinks about their lives, all the time.

There is something of a little stunned feeling as she suddenly knows something that she thought she knew, or maybe knew a little, but that she didn’t really know like she knows it now.

She feels the knowing slip a little. She thinks about the man again and then there is another man, sitting on a couch.

“I’m just a little kid,” he says, with his eyes sadly shining in his tired adult face.

We are all children.

I like to think that the world is a place that is full of fools.

This thought makes me feel good about myself in some ways, as if I am privy to some insight and awareness that other people aren’t, as if my life is somehow more rich and interesting than theirs may be. I have an ego-based attachment to the thought that most people are stupid and my critical mind immediately flashes into action to undermine the assertion I am about to make, telling me that I am right, that people are a damned tragedy in a lot of ways.
Tragic and foolish are two different things, though I suppose it could be said that there is such a thing as being tragically foolish.

I admit it. I thought people were stupid, thoughtless. I thought they didn’t care.

I now realize, again, there is nothing more stupid than imagining that intelligence is more important than integrity, more important than heart.


This is what I know:

Every single human being on this planet used to be a child.

I will never, ever use the phrase “inner child” here, because it is a terrible phrase. I don’t even like the word child, because it carries assumptions of 1) not knowing anything about life, 2) not being able to control oneself, 3) not yet “mature” and 4) all sorts of brightly colored plastic games and puerile amusements, wasted, lazy time in the summer.

Yes, it’s true that there exists a cult of innocence around the word “child,” but this imagined purity is often imposed and exploited.

“Child” is a lovely word though. It is like a cicada at the edges, with slight teeth and breath.

It may hold additional appeal because the “I” sound is one that is especially appealing to English-speaking humans.

I think I am going to look for other words for child, in other languages. In the meantime, I’ll use the word child for the sake of redefining it, or clarifying its meaning for myself.

“What even is a child? What is the nature of a young human?”

It seems really unlikely to me that our natural state, as humans, is sitting in rows and watching screens while eating ice cream sprinkled with neuroleptics.

I know this. I also know that people learn young not to talk about their experiences and that there is a definite possibility that the vast majority of human beings are – in some part of their heart – daydreaming about something fantastic they’d like to do or wondering why in the world they feel so sad and so lost.

You can see it in them and hear it between their words, the person that they used to be and always will be.
…and, one day, they’ll have to admit it.


Could I give you the view
from across the desk?

A slightly weary looking
woman with a blue diamond
on the back of her left hand
she is tearful
because she is a tearful person
but only sometimes
when viewed
from across a desk
in the moments before she gets angry
but doesn’t even realize it.

She plays with the edge of her sweater, rolling it
like a cigarette
or a sail.

She thinks about songs and sirens
and she pictures everything
she reminds herself of the sky
and doesn’t ever forget the fact that she is happy
and she is sad,
but mostly she is happy.

She does not stay sad for very long, because she does not want to live in a sad world.

She wants to live in a real world and, mostly, she does.

Sometimes, when she wakes up she looks like ghost and sometimes
she looks like herself
but she is never quite sure
which is which

She stands in the kitchen and she looks far away. She flinches at the sounds the dishes make.

Sitting on the porch,
walking down the sidewalk, standing in a field
she is at ease
and all that she holds in
during all those times
that she can’t let it out
comes tumbling out
and over

There are old pictures, but they all got torn to shreds.

There are love letters
better left unsaid.

There are scars on the map that is her arm, that is her leg, that is her hand, that is her belly.

Her heart is full
of the sleeping feet of children
and the sound of thistle
it is full of colonies
and a million small fissures
its a forest
its a junkyard
its a backroom
a stratosphere of broken figures
that find new form in every season


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