Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

I am misguided. By my own brain. I blame this on MS.

Most detrimentally affected is wit. A witticism delayed is a witticism lost, for wit relies on the quick addition, hinges on the unanticipated allusion. Wit seizes the moment--this moment, the one just passing at the speed of light, not the one that pops up a half hour later, long after the subject had been dropped and all but forgotten. The witticism offered at such a time is more akin to the sudden outburst of a Tourette sufferer--all but meaningless, distinctly awkward.

The brain of the MS sufferer has fallen into a habit of detours. It simply cannot travel direct from point A to point B, but must instead traverse a goodly part of the alphabet first. The thought, the response, the action intended thus shows up at its destination panting and ragged, like the man who is critically late for an appointment he must in any case attend. He arrives, and yet manifestly out of sorts.

I give the following as an example, a simile:

The other day I drove my motorbike to the gas station, perhaps a half mile from our home, and quite along the confines of a straight line. This part of the journey went without event. I arrived, I filled my tank, I paid my 10,000 Rupiah.

Upon departure from this midpoint, however, I found the route of initial success--the Jalan Ngurah Ra By Pass--clogged with unmoving vehicles and quite impassable. When the driver of the motor vehicle, like the central nervous system, finds himself faced with stasis, he seeks an alternate route, for he has found the most essential artery out of order.

So it happened, upon exit from the gas station, that I turned left instead of right.

I do not say that the return journey home was without interest of its own, just that the events along the way possessed no practical kinship with the mission at hand. There exists the road that is wide and straight--the dash between the A and the B--and there exists the forest of alternative paths, twisted, crimped, noodle like strands which, for all their effort, go no farther in essence than the straight line, but only take much more time to do so.

I saw new houses, I saw new children, I saw new dogs. I ran over a new dog. I smelled new smells, craned my neck to see the tops of new trees. I nearly missed running over two chickens. I made decisions--turn right, turn left. I found dead ends. I found a hole in the road, two feet deep. I saw new garbage, strewn about by the new dogs. I saw a toad by the side of the road inexplicably entering the mouth of a snake.

By and by I arrived home. I told my wife of my adventures and she responded that I was late, that she had been waiting nearly an hour, and was now herself late for her appointment at the beauty salon.

And then I remembered the first point, the very reason for my journey. I remembered the letter A, long lost in the alphabet soup of possibilities. In short, the reason I had gone for gas in the first place was so that I could get my wife to her appointment at noon.

Remembering this however, as can be readily appreciated, is a far different thing than actually doing it.

And so it goes. The maze of necessary alternatives, that process which typifies the attempts of the afflicted central nervous system to succeed, is, like the delayed witticism, a mere spectre, an echo--not only wholly irrelevant, but wholly without hope of redemption.

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