As I write this piece, in part, out of fondness for my pre-Internet childhood and an old love affair with a boxy and rabbit-eared television, I can see us. We are sitting rapt – my two little sisters cross-legged beside me, our faces iridescently lit by the FBI flashlights that spear the dark glaze of an eerie and abandoned field. I can see Mulder and Scully pushing the light forward, toward us as we lean into it, intersecting one another like the glowing crossbeams of their flashlights.
I always try to pick just the right moment to tell people. That moment is sometime between realizing that they are one of those who will need to know, and the point when they figure it out on their own. Although I frequently share intimate details of my life, in writing, and with my bank teller, or a new acquaintance, there is one thing that I hold back until the last minute.
“Exile brings you overnight where it would normally take a lifetime to go.”
― Joseph Brodsky
On days when the sun is shining across the oak outside my door, and colors I didn’t know it possessed bloom in the bark’s inscribed lines – gold, green, sage – I like to think about the concept of limits. The Russian poet, Joseph Brodsky, spent 18 months in a labor camp in subzero temperatures along the Arctic Circle. Some have said of this time that “Brodsky’s exile was the best year of his life…because it gave him time to read and write.” Brodsky agrees, “Even sitting there between those walls, locked up, then being moved from place to place, I was writing poems.” Brodsky’s writing flourished in confinement.
I blame Tom Brokaw. Or someone, anyway, west of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies. This might qualify Walter Cronkite, too, who was no doubt the most powerful white man of my youth. The news itself, it might be said, was the direct descendent of Puritan plain style, the most complex stories broken down into a few short sentences delivered by stolid white men in serious, accentless tones with direct eye contact. And Midwestern English had a starring role.