One Time, On Tralfamadore

I think I’m consciously developing a lisp.

Because I slept through a linguistics class in college, I can vaguely tell you that I am changing the way I make S sounds. The tip of my tongue no longer hits the back of my teeth, now the front half of my tongue collides with the ridge of my hard palette. It’s a novelty — a weird tic, almost — and I like it.

I’ve noticed it most when singing, and I did a lot that on the nine-hour drive moving Jamie from Farmington, NM to Pocatello.

Tearing through the red rock of southern Utah, The Shins’ “A Comet Appears” came on my shuffle. It’s a great song, with a whole bunch of Ss in it. For instance:  “But with each turn it’s this front and center / like a dart stuck square in your eye / Every post you could hitch your faith on / was a pie in the sky / chock full of lies / a tool we devise to make sinking stones fly.” Even the CHs, I notice, will sometimes puff out my cheeks like a kid with braces.

I had fun singing along to a song that previously solidified my sense of being miserable for the sake of it. It made me feel like it was okay to think  I was running a losing race, and all the other generally jaded sophomoric sentiments I tend to espouse. It used to feel good, the placebo affect of the lyrics: “Still to come / The worst part and you know it / There is a numbness / In your heart and it’s growing.” Yeah, numb, man.

There was something virtuous about potentially feeling more than anyone else, and if miserable, anxious hopelessness was what I felt best, then god dammit, who was going to stand in my way?

But that day, enjoying the fat feeling of my new-found, puffy lisp, I felt good singing along. It was off-putting, until the grade of the road shifted, giving way to a completely different horizon.

All of the sudden, sharp peaks of snow-covered mountains shot up beyond the back of the canyons, the red rock splayed out sloppily in contrast, like someone had dipped  your grandmother’s doily in ham gravy.

The landforms aren’t things that ever go together — they exist hundred of miles away from each other. But there they were, stacked on top of one another, like layers in a bottle of sand art,  like they were always supposed to be that way.

And there was this version of me: Happily to lisping along to a song, watching the U-Haul full of Jamie’s life tumble along the blacktop in front of me, hundreds of miles away from the version who used to break down during the same choruses, and broke away from anyone who tested my mettle.

It felt a whole lot like looking at a bowl of oranges, and I thought, if only we could see our own lives from that point every once in a while — the good and the bad, the messy and the austere — one after another stacked straight up to the sky, then maybe we’d feel a little more okay about.

But then we’d be Tralfamadorians, and “Wincing the Night Away” would never be as fun.


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