“THE RETARD” by W.T.

Hello,

Instead of composing a short personal essay on my qualifications in attending your technical school, I will reproduce a narrative involving troubles of my health and complications relating thereof with the United States Government.

I suffer from a congenital illness. My mother hands me my medication from the hall. I reside in the water closet, which is also a storeroom, on a hammock just below the transom. The moonlight reveals suspended dust particles above me, and their spiral motion hypnotizes me to sleep. As I said, I suffer from a congenital illness. My body attacks itself in times of stress, and my blood is wont to thicken, the lipids stick and amplify viscosity. That is to say, I am slow. My mother knew I had this illness from a young age, it was simply my illness, we all have some kind of illness, she would often say, I took this for granted. As I made my way through the educational system, I was often forced to produce identification, to fill out documents, to designate my illness. At first, and for some time, I used my proper name, and I was often asked, was this perhaps the doctor or scientist who discovered this illness? And I would say no, that is my name, it is my illness.

Recently I learned that the United States Government has been aware of my illness for some time, tracking my activity, even my dosage of medication. The phone in the water closet, which is designated precisely for me, by my proper name, and used only for the purpose of calls relating to my illness, rang at an ungodly hour. I was resting on the aforementioned hammock just below the transom, and as I said, it was an ungodly hour. I answered the phone with some aggravation. On the other end was the sound of an office party, and an obviously intoxicated official at his desk informing me that at last, they had found a name for my illness. I asked what and he told me. It was not my name, and I said that, no, my illness is designated by my proper name. What? He asked, his voice cracking, obviously confused. Have you at least discovered its cause, its symptoms, its pathology, I asked. No, he laughed, but it’s in the books. There was cheering. I hung up.

Shortly thereafter a series of unpleasant events befell me. I developed new symptoms, possibly caused by my illness, possibly not, and the United States Government continued to harass me. I am a free citizen, seeking training for remunerative employment, I do not intend to be dependent on my parents forever, I do not intend to suckle, as it were, on the teat of the State, but some transitional shamefulness, some embarrassing sacrifices, are unavoidable. I have been in such an interval for about twenty-two years now since I dropped out of High School.

I began, in public and at the homes of friends, to find people listening to my conversations, hiding in cupboards, chests, armoires, mailboxes, around corners, and in gutters with long bent metal receivers jutting from bands around their heads. These people, when I was able to get a hold of them, which was difficult, for they were slippery and well-trained in self-defense, told me, after some interrogation, that they were diagnosticians. And it was true, recently I had been experiencing rashes, indigestion, internal disorder, as if tubes had been rearranged, blatant delirium, a loss of feeling in part of my face. Well, I thought, how rude of me to delay and even assault these people who only wanted to better understand the new manifestations of my illness – if it was indeed mine, and not another one, contiguous to that I was born with, cohabitating my body, perhaps that named by the government official – and, of course, I suppose, eventually treat me. That is what I hoped for a long time, that all these people only intended to treat me, the diagnosticians, the officials, the United States Government.

I was wrong. I know now that they only desired to further Legislation. Every American has within them a potentially infinite amount of unactualized Legislation budding out from the ends of accusative sentences, the declarations of rights and wrongs. At any moment, we are bombarded with emotions and ideas and memories and sensations that have an almost violent presence, that disturb the ego, but are not, on this account, intrusions. No, they are not like home invasions, they are not errors. But in deeming them errors we create new Laws, and there is everywhere a general trend toward the creation of new Laws, the resolution of their contradictions and restrictions by proliferation of micro-names, micro-hierarchies, micro-privileges, micro-concepts. Who is to say, for example, that the tumor I have developed in the last month is “cancerous”, and not a creative act?

My Uncle Reed pursued education for many years, but grew increasingly repulsed by these Laws, by their blind reproduction, and finally renounced them altogether, endeavoring to unlearn everything he had memorized, even to the point of forgetting language, after which he retired to the Kentucky countryside to work on a pig farm for the rest of his days. When I visited him, he communicated only in grunts and flailing hand movements, measurable somewhere along a continuum of excitement, though so ambiguous it could not be determined whether the intensity was in happiness or anger, freedom or regret.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you all of this, what does it have to do with my prospective matriculation at your institution, you may ask. Well this morning, I saw my tumor featured on the news, on the television in my kitchen that my mother neither unmutes nor switches off, and I watched a three-minute segment that zoomed, as might a miniature submarine, through a blue computer-graphics model of my brain, right to the heart of the “malignant” mass. Well, how’s that for gross psychological manipulation, and you know I won’t be able to tell anyone otherwise, I won’t be able to speak for myself anywhere I go, now that the “idiot box” has had the last word. This is why I am explaining myself to you.

Things perplex me. How is it that the interjections of the radio are distinguishable from my inner monologue, apart from the coarse control dials, admittedly superfluous to a powerful imagination? I find more and more that the soundtrack of breezes and birdsongs, distant car horns, tremors and outright Earthquakes that make up the Natural World, are mere extensions of my own amateur dramatization. Some mornings I find that my veins have become tangled up with city plumbing, that my digestive system is dried out by the Summer heat. Eating is repulsive to me. The alimentary canal is simply a more pretentious route for waste, every esophagic spasm is an abomination. The colon is a tapeworm that fooled man into thinking it was an organ.

I have lost my thread. There is no specific subject that I desire to study at your school, there is not a body of knowledge I wish to consume in toto, my head is pounding, and I suspect that I do not have much longer before some fatal accompaniment arises as sequalae to this “tumor”. My thoughts continue to race. My fancy is that I can, through a kind of overclocking, unravel the indefatigable verbalizing and legislating within me, blow out the other end as it were, and dismantle myself. But that is quite a fancy, isn’t it? Upon having this fancy, a little voice comes to me, the voice of the crowds, and it says, well, nobody understands you then, it says this facetiously. And it is true, I have felt this way many times before, that others have not grasped my enigmatic core, that they do not understand what I am truly saying. It feels like badgers are screwing their claws into my temples. It is not that I hold some secret that longs to be seen, or maybe it is that, but the secret is nothing, what is really there? The fact is, I do not even understand what I want, I do not even want anything, I am painfully transparent, painfully throbbing around this hollow center, this empty fat cell clinging in my blood, my illness, designated by my proper name. I am not complicated, on the contrary I am far too simple. By the time you receive this letter, I will likely already be gone, but I implore you to consider my acceptance anyway.