"For you I would move the world, the whole damn enchilada not just half this time," he gibbers enthusiastically to perhaps no one in particular. Of course by the whole enchilada he does not mean to offer me a Mexican meat pastry; my uncle Jim is weird like that, a little bit artist, poet, and ad lib playwright, although he never writes any of it down.
"Son," he sometimes says to me, even though he doesn't have a son, "don't listen to them. They will convince you with their words and their lies that there is no place in this world for you. But don't listen. They're just afraid of you and of what you can do. You are insuperable and only you know how."
I do not know, but I plan to learn. He's right, of course, every time, and he sounds like God issuing his high-and-mighty affirmations from that accursed wheelchair.
"Stoned you sit listening to music alone. Witless, mindless, closed to the world: you're so empty, so alone. Why do you do it to yourself?" he murmurs. I can never tell when he means me. Certainly he's wrong about the stoned part, but I grudgingly admit that the rest is nearly the truth.
He's big on the stream-of-consciousness thing. A regular philosopher king, Marcus Aurelius with a four-wheeled throne, he chooses irregular moments to share those nuggets of truth, a dole for the spiritually malnourished.
"The Christians were all wrong, you know," he mentioned once; choosing each word, laconically presenting his position with parsimonic prose, he continued, for once precise, pellucid: "about the nature of sacrifice, I mean. The way I see it, God is just a machine operating on a crazy broken kind of karma. Or the ghost in that same machine. He saved Isaac so he could slay Jesus. I got this notion in my head that God renegotiates his covenants like a shady car salesman redefining the terms of your loan, and he's got about as much ethics too."
I hadn't really known what to say to that one. His diatribes are somehow all at the same time delightful, disturbing, and disgusting; they touch a part of me that I prefer to keep hidden away. And so in a very real way I feel him my moral and physical superior, even though it is I who rolls him around that Godforsaken nursing home.
Now he looks at my headphones and asks about my music. I tell a little about what I listen to; he nods politely as I attempt to explain my postmodern anticonsumerism stance.
"You don't need that, you know." he notes. I stare, quizzical. "To tell you how you feel. You feel it better than most of them" (he indicates the door--his neighbors, he means) "out there. You feel it in that part of the heart they don't have."
"But I like it. Is it wrong to listen to what you feel like?" Aside, I note that it's rare for Jim to be this interactive; usually, he is content to talk and I to listen. Perhaps he is recovering.
"No, but it's wrong to feel like what you listen to. You are closer to the true source of what they sing than they themselves are, you are young and full of vigor, strong and foolhardy like bull in tiny arena searching for the matador. Save your birdhouse building and your cyborg anthropomorphism and your protorevolutionary pacifism for later or you will end up like bull in china shop in ten years, lost and confused and surrounded by broken fragments of china." He says it with so much certainty that I suddenly want to cry.
It is quiet here
and I have never felt so alone but Jim is here and it is all right. He is not my companion so much as my guide; it is a funny state of affairs since here it is supposed to be he and not I who requires supervision. People are often wrong and appearances are often deceiving, I suppose.
"I am listening. I always listen even when I talk."
"I love you."
I would hug him, but he is too frail and I am too strong. He feels the same way.