Monday, February 1, 2010

Tongue Tied

Tongue Tied

Anytime, now, I hope, my tongue is going to come back to work, full time.

I don’t know whether my tongue thinks the layoff period for the stroke-strike is up (and, Lord knows, maybe it isn’t; which leaves me what? Giving myself a tongue lashing?); or, whether it thinks I continue to not notice its absence (which I would consider absurd, but have found myself re-educated. I mean, the neurological system, as an entire union or working under different skills and departments, can pretty much do whatever it wants, with or without, not only my input, but my knowledge, my consciousness, even my presence); or whether the tongue just likes lounging around, sluggishly, I think would be the word, periodically sticking holes in my oral paragraphs, just for laughs.

I am getting accustomed to the notion, or better yet, to the reality, of my parts’ having fun with my mind and with each other. It’s as if they’re showing me how I would fare without them, how they can mess with (what I thought was) my mind at any given time; how presumptuous I am to even think I have control over a part that feels it isn’t getting its due and therefore is in a way abused, or maybe just has decided it no longer likes me very much.

For instance, the matching coefficient of speed between that of what I thought was the leader, shall we say the brain, or, again, what I thought was the brain, and, say, my tongue, and its attendant accompanists (the teeth, the inside-the-mouth wall, the lips) was entirely up to me. Or, what I thought was me.

I believed that I and I alone made the sounds I made coincide with the sense I thought I made, so that other people would think the resultant match made exquisite conclusions, and that I was therefore smart and sexy and worthy to…I don’t know, I guess, mate.

Time to get real, Ed. You were just lucky.

Don’t let it get you down. Or, up. Everybody’s lucky. Every hand is a lucky hand. We have no idea what we’re doing. None. Nobody. You’re here, in the body you’re in, thumbed or not-thumbed, with the face you have. That’s your voice (hear it?). Now, get onstage and let’s see what you can do. Go. It’s, uh, early in the century; you’re on Long Island, near a ridiculous city; it’s snowing; and, uh, your wife hates you; and a plane crashes in front of you. There. Go.

We have no idea why some people can pick up a harmonica and play music and other people stare at ants all day, trying to figure out what goes on in their ant minds. What in God’s name makes anybody want to be Lt. Governor of New Jersey? President of the Long Island Raid Road? Pope? Why do some people live until graduation and then blow themselves up, and other people wait until they’ve got a AARP card and cirrhosis of the liver?

We don’t know. They just do.

My tongue gets tired, now.

Tired. My tongue. Who knew?

Suddenly, I can feel it winding down, sticking too long to my palate, not converting fast enough from a sh sound to a st sound and back to a sktsyi sound. I’m miles from articulating my point, and I’m believing that this oral machinery owes me this energy and service, and would be committing an offense, if it refused or failed to help me. To help me make this point. Do I really think my tongue cares?

By this time, it’s asleep, the tongue, tired of waiting to say, “Hey, Ed! Edit yourself! I’m taking a break.” Which means I, at this point, am blithering.

I have taken to exercising the muscles in my tongue, because otherwise, I risk a job action. For exercise, and pleasure, I read aloud in the afternoon when nobody is home. I’m currently reading Oliver Sacks, “An Anthropologist On Mars.” It’s a good book, but it’s a better lingual exercise.

Line after line, like this: “If he lacked spontaneity and initiated no exchanges, he responded promptly and appropriately when I spoke to him, though odd words would sometimes catch his fancy and give rise to associative tangents or snatches of song and rhyme.”

Four or five pages of that, and you better not be introducing me to anybody.

“Ed, this is John.”

“Hi Georhan. Makus beseeted.”

And sensitive to cold, if you can imagine that.

If Susan gives me a dish of ice cream (Yeah. You believe that? And, I like it, and, I like it more than three beers. That’s the power of stroke.) my mouth gets permanently cold, my tongue freezes and suddenly, I’m back eight months ago, trying to say, “two-firy…no, toof firty…no, twof firfy…no, hafpastdoo.”

Maybe everyone should have a stroke.

I used to say the world would be 30 per cent better (and I mean, 30 per cent at least) if all our children spent two years conscripted to a national service waiting tables, so they will know what the help is forever going to say about them.

I figured, all right, let’s have a draft. You can join the service, enlist in the Peace Corp, teach in junior high school, or wait tables in a diner or a restaurant. There, you can watch people be kind, or be noisy, or be careless, generous, cheap, or behave like there is nobody on earth, let alone in this restaurant, but them.

I still think that.

But suppose there was a graduate program, too.

All adults could submit to a stroke for two years, at least, so they know how fragile they are; how precious and valuable are their friends and family (and what a waste of time it is worrying about who’s going to get that fourth-generation serving spoon, when Aunt Alice dies); and what folly is the bulk of their ambition.

Maybe every politician, before he runs for office, should spend a year or two, not helping—anybody can help—but unable to speak; dependent on another’s mood for his comfort; forbidden to go…wherever…without another, a really busy, preoccupied, important, person, with, busy, preoccupied, important things to do, to help him out.

Maybe stroke is the way to goko…goles…gos…damn.

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