[21 September, 2009]

the freaks

Sometime last year around the holidays my school abided with its tradition to put on a Talent Show. You know, the kind where students sign up to do embarrassing things in front of each other, like play the latest emo song on guitar, recite jokes that include lines like "oh to be Jung again", and I don't know, do a shirtless dance of male pudge jiggle. This is the point at which the gay guys rolled their eyes, grabbed their complimentary glasses of white wine, and went to sit on the railing looking at the sunset over the Bay. This straight-boy humor was not for them, and I will admit in having joined them in the renunciation.

This outrageous event also provided students with goody bags filled with candy, coupons to nearby coffee shops (quite useful, actually!), and a $5 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Not that the latter in any way makes up for the thousands of dollars we spend in loans to the institution, but I'll welcome anything to put even the slightest dent in my school book orders that often carelessly exceed hundreds of dollars. So I stuck the gift card in my wallet fully intending to use it in the fall.

However, as fall came and I was once again ordering my stack of textbooks, I somehow felt sad about using this gift money on such a trivial purchase. This poor $5 amount would be swallowed effortlessly by the beast that would be my textbook order. I wanted to get my money's worth, so to speak; I wanted to spend it on something useful and enjoyable.

So I logged onto the Barnes & Noble website, searching for the books on my pleasure-reading list, and came across The Daily Coyote. For a while now I've been intrigued by this story of a girl and her coyote, and I've wanted to read this book ever since it came out. And let me tell you, this was $5 well spent!

Which brings me to the real point of this post. In the very first chapter, as Shreve Stockton (the author) is introducing herself and putting her character into perspective, she references a passage from Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet. Something about "those born not belonging". And as I've been a fan of Salman Rushdie's fantastical writing, with his themes of artists and vagabonds, people misplaced and people searching, I looked up that passage and here it is (bear with me and my choices of long-winded writers; yes, this is all one paragraph):

"For a long while I have believed--this is perhaps my version of Sir Darius Xerxes Cama's belief in a fourth function of outsideness--that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are simply born not belonging, who come into the world semi-detached, in you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers, perhaps; that, in sum, the phenomenon may be as "natural" a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated, throughout human history, by lack of opportunity. And not only by that: for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, have erected a powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers' seal of approval. But the truth leaks out in our dreams; alone in our beds (because we are all alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our arts, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks. What we forbid ourselves we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theatre, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the thief, the mutant, the outcast, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveller, the gangster, the runner, the mask: if we did not recognize in them our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time."

So yeah. At least it's nice to know that there are others like me, always migrating and always adjusting to the times and to the surroundings.

We may be misunderstood, but we really are the constants of this fleeting world.

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