Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mothers and Sons, II

Servi’s first real memory floated to the service, like a bubble rising through the taut surface of a heavy liquid: Servi was in the basement of a Roman Catholic Church. Despite his protests in the morning, here he was with other children.

Servi remembered the casual anarchy of the room: work tables and play areas and he was supposed to move from one to the other with the regularity of a tide. But Servi clung with tenacity to one task, not for the joy of doing it, but because of the fear of novel arrangements. Every now and again a Mother-Helper would coax Servi to adjust the horizons of his expectations and move on to another task. Servi continued on because his mother promised him she remained in the parking lot in the car. He realized that she was out there, above ground, waiting for him to complete his circuit of tables; to perform the tasks he was meant to finish for goals which were as inexplicably hidden, as obscure as the knot of life tight and clean he held within him.

One fine day the children were brought into the parking lot to complete a task in the open air, and Servi did not see his mother’s familiar blue car. Servi cried without a thread of consolation. When his mother arrived to pick him up, she explained that she simply went to buy the Newsday. The lie was apparent, but when Servi returned to the Volkswagen he accepted it as a natural truth. It was his first real breach of trust, and it passed by without evident notice or regard, only to be played out later, on a wider screen, in different cities, houses, apartments, with other women.

From then on, the world had a solid surface, but the hot magma beneath could burst at any moment. Servi walked on the eggshells of disharmony; he felt at any moment that the chasm would open between his feet.

He knew the lie was not an unpardonable monument to neglect. It was merely a question of the abuse of fundamentals. It was the carrot offered to a young boy on the end of the maternal stick, the incentive to get him to do what he did not want to do, which is the prerogative of mothers; that this was Servi’s first memory, the anchor by which all his other memories hinged, formed a disagreeably fragile impression of the solid forms of the world. Like a keystone in a bridge, this was the piece which held up the entire edifice of Aaron Servi’s past and present.

And although he laughed at the lie, mocked it, held it up into the sun for casual ridicule or gleeful scorn, even bloodied it with a thorny switch, its power was magisterial. In the arena of Servi’s psyche where matters ran deeply, darkly, it held the paramount position.

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