Ascetic Prose

Dear J-

The boy scratched his cornea on Sunday — this can, as can so many accidents, be traced directly back to me. We went to the playground and he picked up a loose wire (some solid-core copper jacketed wire, probably originally red but faded pink by the time he picked it up. Instead of leaving it at the playground we took it home and later, as he was waving it around, he poked himself in the eye, we looked and saw the cornea had been scratched, and so we went to urgent care. There was another kid there, two years old and just about as big as Calcifer (our boy is a little small, as he’s not a huge protein eater) and he had apparently fallen off his dad’s shoulders, which gives me pause somewhat when I’m there hoisting him up and getting ready to go.

Nevertheless, afterwards theVet and I mentioned that falling off the shoulders (and hitting your head, to be fair) sure sounded like a first-kid problem. You know how there’s first-world problems that earn you nothing but undying contempt if you reveal them in polite company? Yup. The last time I noted this was when we went to the museum and he got soaking wet at the water table; as I’m changing him out of dripping shirt and pants, I noted another couple recoiling in horror at a wet cuff on another boy and I smiled and thought how familiar that was. And yet … and yet there’s no reason or call to be spreading contempt in the world, right? There’s enough of that stuff elsewhere, too much for me to be spreading it around.

I try to be a nice person, I guess. This goes back to my roots of needing to be liked, which isn’t always productive. Does it hurt anyone if the target never is aware of how you feel? I think it does. It must. It changes how you see the rest of the world, and that’s not always a positive change. If unearned contempt is the poison of Billy Joel, then contempt in general is a slow sort of cynicism that keeps you from genuinely enjoying something different, that you might not understand, and that would be a shame. Without our new experiences we’re not growing, we’re not learning, and we might as well forget what we’re doing; the memory hole yawns wide, ready to take all we’ve earned into oblivion.


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