Portrait of a Merchant - Jan Gossaert - [c.1530]
"Neither are any of us."

"What's changed for you in the almost three days we've been traveling into The Great American Southwest," I asked The GrandOtter as she deftly demonstrated how to drive across a Navajo Reservation.

I've started learning to just F*C#IN' DO IT," She exclaimed! (The Otter's language can at times emerge sprinkled rather liberally with a backstreet French dialect.)

Once I'd ceded driving duties to this sometimes presumed overly-brittle young woman, relegating myself to the significantly lowlier role of backseat passenger, her former brittleness utterly disappeared. Certainly, mine seemed to increase, as if to maintain constant the net mass of brittleness in the universe, but hers simply disappeared. She confided that she could feel me stiffening in the seat behind her, vibrating as I held myself back from butting in too awfully much, but she'd decided to continue as if my sensibilities didn't matter. She, after all, HAD the freaking wheel. What could I do about it? Nothing, she presumed, and so she drove as if she were fully competent and eminently capable of fulfilling that critical role, critics be damned, and so she proved to be.

Over the following three hours, I gnawed a fresh hold in my tongue, but we both held fast, and it's seductive to presume that The Otter had become ADifferentPerson by the time we'd arrived, though I suspect that she had not. Not really.
Perhaps she had glimpsed a part of her that trauma had rendered invisible and inaccessible, but invisibility and inaccessibility does not any real difference make. The stars remain throughout the day in spite of their invisibility and through the night in spite of their eternal inaccessibility. Everyone has nascent parts they carry around as if they were excess baggage, taking up space but contributing nothing at most moments.

Lost in the invisible seat behind The Otter, the truly dramatic difference sat there stifling himself. The challenge lessened as she drove. I found myself increasingly supportive and continually less concerned, at least until she'd taken to the seventy-five MPH Interstate. Then my defenses shot back up, but not to quite their previous levels. I'm confident that The Muse sat quietly astounded in the navigator's seat, for I had always been a notoriously white-knuckled passenger, overflowing with unwanted and unneeded good advice for whomever sat behind the wheel. There are moments when such good advice might be warmly received. Those moments never, ever come when the advised sits behind the wheel without ever having sought any sort of sage wisdom from anybody.

I'm learning. I understand that my metabolism, like yours, ceaselessly works at recreating myself. Cells come and cells go, and over surprisingly short periods of time, the physical organism I call myself becomes somebody else. A similar but hardly exact copy. I'm not the man I was a year ago in more ways than my level of understanding, but also in my liver, spleen, heart, and lungs; all have been replaced as I was focusing my attention elsewhere. The Muse and I carried on a long conversation about the years just before we met, and I realized as I remembered that the protagonist of my stories was ADifferentMan than I am today, whomever that might be. My history, dutifully recounted to an interested ear, had been played out by someone utterly different from the present storyteller. It seemed almost fictional, purely notional to my current ear.

Knowing seems largely a matter of doing and catching myself in the act. The man decreasingly stifling his reactions in the irrelevant backseat only distantly resembles the one who first sat there two days previous. He sat there watching his blessed irrelevance emerging. It's every grand daughter's sacred responsibility to somehow prove their grandfather irrelevant. It's likewise every grandfather's equally sacred responsibility to somehow encourage this emergence, though it most certainly means his demise. None of us seem to sit quietly through the transformation from kingpin to apostrophe, but so this life seems to be. ADifferentMan emerges constantly. I might catch rare glimpses of who I was while recounting another past, but I'm not that protagonist anymore. Neither are any of us.

In the words of my increasingly recognized as supremely competent GrandOtter, "Just F*C#IN' DO IT!"

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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