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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2013 - Vol. 10, Issue 2


written by

A.K. Duvall

I know they first found you in–FUCK–France, in days when asylums were warehouses, narcotics were medicines, and quacks created concoctions to cure the ill. Lead into gold, inspired by tales of Midas and men, mediocre medicine made by surgeons who sought money. And like mice, they made feasts of open corpses during surgery, and broke their bread with bile, to tinker with the innards of organs they knew little about, like modern children dissecting cats killed for the classroom.


This doctor that discovered you did so in an asylum. An aristocrat, an aged female found somewhere in France, friended you for the first–FUCKING–time. Like the woman who passes her maternal name onto her daughter, this doctor passed his paternal name onto you, and from then on, wherever and whenever in the world they found you, his troubled tot, they called you Tourette, for your father.


But before my doctor made us chums as a child, and after another quack said you weren’t real, calling you Obsessive-Compulsive (and not Tourette), fitting you into a nice and neat, pretty little package that’s not Tourette; nice and neat, the pretty package was nice and neat and got its own stanza. Not a paragraph, the pretty package with Obsessive-Compulsive (and not Tourette), gets a stanza, not a paragraph–FUCK.


I mean to say that between before and after, you were something to be feared by my folks, just like the fidget on my face while I was in class or the nervous–FUCKING–fits I threw out in the field, when I was taken to the hospital to have my head examined. Had they known it was just you and your whispers, I would have continued to lick the collar of my shirt, or counted back the times I touched the kitchen counter, or even personified the broken bottles discarded alongside the road, driving with you during dusk.


You weren’t the imaginary–FUCKING–friend that they, the troubled kids in school, taunted. Minors much too young to make friendships with the mothers they bested, much too weak to fend off or overpower the fathers that beat them; families with diets either inadequate or over-abundant in funds. If you were my imagined friend, these kids would have teased me and told you off, but to them, you didn’t exist like an imaginary friend exists. You were an annoyance to them and an annoyance to the teachers that taught the kids not to tolerate your tricks, and to treat me like a tool when I would tic during the classes we disrupted.


But my friends, my other friends, not you (or OC), stood up for us and, kept quiet when you naturally treaded on their nerves with your noises. It was inevitable; even you know what a nuisance you are at times. You never minded my friends though, not unless they came together in numbers. Grouping was a situation that stressed you and always somehow, you made yourself known with your noises; a blissful drunk, ignorant of the negative attention he thirsts for, like an only child who chooses to aggravate and act out for the–SHIT–sake of any attention at all.


My doctor, the one who discovered you, did so in summer. I was the companion who scratched–SHIT–your itches with harsh words and outbursts, and now that they knew your name; I was allowed to indulge you. We weren’t acquainted long when winter came, and though you weren’t invited to Thanksgiving dinner, you came along anyway. And while the bird was cut, conversations were exchanged, and we quarreled fiercely in front of the family over our feast.


I excused us both and exiled you outside. Was it passion or pity that made me follow you out into the premature snow? While we spent an hour alone in the night, shouting– SHIT–together, realizing we were hidden, hungry; we indulged in those urges that no one seemed to understand, like a couple of confused kids acting out their long-kept kinks hidden in the closet.


Our actions reminded me of those comedies that portray your character all wrong, like the way that films alter reality and romanticize real motivation of historical figures. Deuce Bigalow Rob –SHITHEAD–Schneider made you look so stupid with his woman’s wails and obscenities, and South Park made you look simple, cut and dry like a piece of smoked jerky that the show’s creator’s craved like cured curse words--A new kid this season with you as a friend? The character didn’t last, but Cartman could copy the kid as an excuse to swear the entire episode. But you were never simple, you have always been stuck with me, and I know you too well.


You are neurotic, so my doctor showed me so many medicines to compose you, all with exotic names. We met them all, you and I, and like travelers to a foreign country, or readers lost in a fantasy novel, I felt conscious of the fact–FUCK–that I’d never pronounce, spell, or remember all their alien titles: Orap, Clemiprimime, Prozac, Effexer, Zoloft, Luvox, Busbar, Lorezapam, Xanax, all were witches when I entered their red bottles, and learned their tongues to barter with them for false promises. Like the cost of a soul, their alchemic remedies came at a price that I would suffer.


I suppressed urges to appease you, and it cost me my hair and saliva; so I wore a scarf and smacked my lips when I spoke. My skin, swollen with so much weight, was white as Mr. Luvox and my–SHIT–a gross green like Mrs. Prozac, with her crooked nose and bent back, hovering over a cauldron, she defended the benefits of our exchange while she chanted to the Devil, while Professor Busbar, psychotic scientist and cousin of Clemiprimime, showed me how to find faces in the wall with every morning session of neurological Satanism.


Though she, (like all the Satanists), swear she is not weak enough to be possessed by Mr. Scratch, the way you make all your friends feel. I met a writer from Berea, Kentucky, Mrs. Rubio, who wrote of an Icy little girl who Sparked a friendship with you in the fifties, a time and place when and where no one really knew of you. There they tried you as the Tempter, who had lured the Icy girl into his fiery–FUCK–grasp. And to parents who partook in Oprah’s Book Club, those whose children suffered from the syndrome known as your friendship, to them, Icy Sparks became Anne Frank, and, “The Diary of Anne Frank” became the book, “Icy Sparks.”


But times have changed and you have met many through the centuries. I wonder who you befriended in the past and what they would have called you in days before Freud, before even your father, when you found–FUCKING–friendship in Mozart and Johnson? Did you make them better artists, as doctors today say you do, or did your friendship frustrate them into alcoholism, anger and issues of attitude toward their lives?


Of all the lives you’ve affected, you’ve never died. Like an angelic parasite, you live forever to befriend and feed upon mortal after mortal, moving on to find that next one-infive-hundred-fifty-thousandth person born. Is it a privilege that you picked me out of all those people?–SHIT– Should I be flattered you call me your friend and announce how well you know me, when I still don’t know your gender, as you always ignore me when I ask why should sex matter, as boys become more susceptible to your sway than girls as they age, after doctors diagnose them with your disease? Haven’t I proved myself praiseworthy of the privilege of knowledge that doctors don’t yet know?


A new era of openness is upon us, and I wonder if time will tell whether you’re that French doctor’s son, or whether you’re really his daughter. To these newer generations, will it even matter? I know of your self-indulgent nature. Your father was French and I am aware of your slight preference for snails over spice, though you sometimes suggest that the server hold the sugar and puppy dog tails when selling you souls, because everything is not always nice when you whisper in a child’s ear like the snake that spoke to Eve. I wonder when you’ll be willing to reveal the secret of your biological ability to be with both–FUCKING–flavors, because like the sins of Sodom, you prefer to stay with males, but can still find an outlet from females. Will time ever tell who you really are? When you wear your disguises, doctors can still spot you lurking over the crouched kid in the corner, but they cannot cease you from whispering taboo words into the innocent child’s ear that you lust to hear sprout from their soft lips, while they bat their bright eyes, grind their tiny teeth and jerk their arms in some sort of spasm.


I think that I know you so well, but what do I know? Doctors say that you like to leave the children you befriend as they age; only occasionally stopping by to inquire how they are doing. You are a nostalgic–BASTARD–and as an adult, I noticed that when you last checked in, you painted a golden glow around our past and forced me to reminisce on long-passed days; days when you sense tension, and you tempt me to tic the way you used to, like our neighbor, that cleaned-up coke addict who came across his crack-pipe in the center of some crisis. He may get clean again, but that addictive element is encrusted in some corner of his wired brain like corrosion in a car battery; but this brand of battery is irreplaceable and technicians can never take it apart to clean up the crud with coca-cola.


You’re the corrosion I mention, my friend, and I know you’ll always linger on. I have been intimate with you. I know you so well and will never find a way to make you flee from me forever, for I call you my friend because you will never define me the way I have failed to defy you, and you will never fully decay the nerves the doctors bundled me in after my birth. Like the imaginary friend that you are not, I have grown too old for your company, though I still allow you to crash in the spare bedroom on the offset nights you come knocking unannounced.


You have allowed me to leave behind a legacy of school IEPs, therapy sessions, and social workers; have entitled me to the rights and privileges of a degree only earned by overcoming challenges of a troubled childhood. We all suffer to some extent and, because of you, I can stand here and say I have suffered in a way that only those you have befriended have endured and, that I have become strong because you have strived to make me so. Doctors demonize you, despite the money you make them, and parents hate how you haunt their children, given the fact that you can grant them gifts in the arts when you feel generous, making marvelous musicians, writers and even scientists out of names known to you. But I thank you for the person you have made me…may you be gentle to the next child you control and, although you never listen to me, I say this to you for the first time, for the sake of your new friends: I hope you hurt them, the way people inevitably hurt the ones they love, but from the day they earn your friendship and forward, I hope you help them along until the day you have earned theirs.

Alex Duvall loves three things: his cat, mooseheads, and barbeque sauce. He has a BA in Creative Writing from Northern Kentucky University and enjoys writing about the dark creatures that lurk in his imagination.

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