but my tongue is only numb


There’s no need to be Simon Bolivar, he tells me. I wonder, as I often do, how much of it is corporate shill and how much is his own ego. There is plenty of both to contend with in the jungle that is his mind. He is an interesting man, and provides plenty of caricature-worthy material on any day. Today, though, I am too tired to see the silver lining that he can be, the muse to my pen. Not all characters need walk like sweet beauty in the silent moonlight. Some of them can be haphazardly brilliant and bleak and broken and full of bravado, and the muses can dance to those tunes too.   I assure him that I am not Bolivar. I straddle that line between caution and truth as I often do, unwilling to lie about my motivations to stay and unwilling to be upfront about my dislike for the situation.

“Is this about sexism?” is often the question he likes to ask me, sounding all world-wise and understanding. I wonder what he has seen to look so wise, to know my plight, to see it as it is perhaps only possible to be seen from this side of the gap, and I wonder if he is truly that magnificent at putting on an act. I assure him it isn’t about sexism. It is only about professionalism. I am not a social reformer. I am only interested in decency, and a code of conduct, and less blurred boundaries.


I manage to choke down my pride and self-reliance, and go asking one of my old colleagues last week. It is perhaps good that I did so. I receive help, practical and constructive, and I am left with room to breathe, plans to make, hope to start organizing my topsy-turvy life around.

“You look so much older,” my ex-colleague says, not without pity and a measure of sympathy. I let him ply me with coffee and concern.

I want to see if I can get it held accountable. He rolls his eyes and chastises me. Cut your losses fast. Move on. We have both been here long enough to know that is the easiest path ahead.

It’s going to happen again. And again. Until I have sufficient leverage to stop it happening to me. Then it’s just going to happen to someone else.

It is too overwhelming. I hate crying outside. I feel tired and cross, and left with no resolution.

“Don’t be like that. You have weathered it before,” he says sharply. “And you weren’t alone then. You aren’t now. Is it news to you that most of us would rather be on the right side of this kind of stuff? It’s ugly and we don’t want it to happen to anyone.”

It’s ugly. We agree. It’s just that we also would rather not see it, would rather choose to ignore it happening. Why not worry about third world atrocities? Why not worry about child brides and gangwars and women who can’t drive? Why would I consider what’s happening right before me, everyday, when I have a plethora of causes none of which will directly affect my comfortable reality, my bubble of denial, anyway? It’s not a culture problem. It’s just a numbers problem. It starts early, in the pipeline, and we just need to encourage Barbie legos.

I focus on my coffee. I think of all that I have done to be here now, of perseverance and long, lonely campaigns, and in the end, this is too trivial to be bothered by now. I am here. That is good enough.

Sappho is quite vivid in her prose. My tongue is shattered, she writes in florid, feeling Greek. She wouldn’t last here a day; her bright and brilliant flame would be extinguished on arrival. Catullus leavens it softer, and explains that it is only another poet whose tongue has gone numb. So I switch the Greek for the Latin, old ideals for mundane and muted reality. Muted is good. After all, if you felt everything all at once today, you’d have nothing left to feel tomorrow.

(lingua set torpet)