Thursday, December 8, 2011

A hole in the universe

At the age of eight,
while seated at an outdoor dinner party,
I discovered a hole in the universe.

My mother,
busy talking to the other guests at our table,
had not noticed me
sorting the red bell peppers
out of my tabbouleh
and pushing them neatly to the edge of my plate, so she did not make me finish them.

Pleased with this small victory, I quietly ate around my abandoned pepper bits, then
settled in for the Long Wait for Dessert,
daydreaming and drowsy,
lulled by a full stomach and the grownups' chatter.

And then something happened.

One of my red bell pepper bits began to move.

In the blink of an eye,
it had slipped off my plate,
scuttled across the dinner table,
slid down the tablecloth,
and disappeared.

It would be understating things
to say I was astonished.

A great wind had blown through my life.
I remember feeling quite grave:
I was going to have to reconsider everything I know about the world.
Also, my mother and I were vegetarian, and
I wondered what we were going to eat from now on.

I felt a little excited. If bell pepper bits could walk,
then the world must be brimming with hidden talents.

I looked up to see if anyone else had noticed
this dramatic turn of events,
and noticed a family friend
fiddling with his laser pointer,
whose bell-pepper-red light was now dancing across the back of someone's chair.

My disappointment was leavened by the arrival of chocolate cake.

But I have always treasured that moment,
that tiny sliver of time in which
my world turned upside down.
I have never forgotten what powerful magic
is misunderstanding
and what marvelous and unlikely holes it can rip in our realities.

1 comment:

Howard Shepherd said...

I just went to see The Nutcracker two nights ago, to watch some of my students dance; your Tunisian list-maker doodle reminds me of the eponymous fellow himself.

And your observation about lost needles set me to wondering about all the different gatherings of dried grain, and the increasing difficulty of finding the needle.

A needle in a sheaf would be the easiest search; then a needle in a shock (which, according to Merriam-Webster's 11th, is from 8 to 18 sheaves gathered together); then a needle in a bale (where the French apparently lose most of their needles); then the needle in a haystack.

I'm guessing that looking for a needle in a barn loft might be the toughest task of all, since a barn loft holds scores of bales of hay and therefore probably trump the haystack. (I know this from my days as a young teenager making hay on my grandfather's farm.)

I really love your love of language, Miranda--and I particularly like the phrasing of your writing. You never fail to inspire.