None of this is true

by Malachi McIntosh:

Malachi was born in Birmingham, England but raised in the United States. He writes fiction, and other things, and lives in Cambridge.

Someone told you, later, that at that age you swarmed with other kids like a scavenging animal, taking outside air as inheritance, territory, you, then, and them as young vandals or bandits, claiming, it’s been said, stair steps, swing slats, seesaws, skirt hems, insect’s legs, sunlight, heartstrings, sour sweets and armfuls of others’ attention like wild things and at your will. Because someone told you this you know the names of your co-conspirators – old names relocated – young boys christened with the identities of dead men. And yet, although they’ve told you everything, you don’t know, because no one can ever explain it, what it felt like then to be an animal just hatched, fresh, close enough to newborn and inhaling Earth like some wet colt past stumbling past afterbirth and bolting at hills. And so, thus, when you see this old picture – or ‘he’ sees it, perhaps – because you aren’t ‘you’ when you look at this photograph – you get a sense instead of someone else – through the eyes of the fresh life of this other self – staring at you, staring back – this ‘he’ that others say that you had been. And in him you catch no glimpse of a subject or perspective, the living presence of an ‘I’ anywhere in his face; you see instead, and feel, an open if not abject submission to the sight of the seeing, a way of being that you – or the ‘he’ that you are when you watch him – feels as the possession of someone else. Because if there has ever been a single thing to fetter your several selves into a single chain extending across different spaces, expectations, losses and gains, it’s been this: not submission. At least that’s what you think.