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Buzzes and secrets

February 1, 2010

A postcard that I saw today on PostSecret, the blog-based community arts project formed by secrets sent in anonymously by followers, reminded me of a short story I wrote some years ago (which also featured on The Muse).

I hope you enjoy them both. I do miss individual writing as of late (individual writing as opposed to collective writing).

Virgilio knows how to imitate voices really well. It all began when, to keep his unbearable little sister away from his secret den in the garden’s apple tree, he barked just like a dog. Exactly the same! Little Vanessa, terrified of dogs, stumbled away at the highest speed possible for her stumpy little legs dressed in the pink trousers. Virgilio looked at her through an eyehole between two axles, and thought that those trousers were really ugly.

Some years later, Virgilio could imitate voices perfectly. And this had often saved his desk-mate, Bert. Bert was a bit chubby but he had a limpid look behind his glasses, and he was intelligent. It’s just that he was secretly in love with the teacher and so he would always get emotional. Virgilio, readily, gave the correct answers, with that slightly feminine voice Bert had, and the teacher smiled happily.
One day the teacher came to school with a bizarre idea. She brought a lot of magazines and newspapers with lots of pictures in them. Magazines of all sorts. Even one about motors, with the picture of a mechanic hunched over some replacement pieces. This one was immediately seized by the most aggressive boys in the class – those who had little regard even when scratching the arms of the girls and calmer males. Nothing strange up until here, the teacher often brought magazines to class. But then she said she had brought them to show examples of many jobs, because it was time to choose what to do when they grew up. Virgilio panicked: he doesn’t know. But then he decided he’d follow whatever Charlotte said. He loves Charlotte, after all. And she knows it, and, even though she hides it in front of the others, once, behind the fire escape stairs, she kissed him. And Charlotte, hardly giving a single glance to the colourful cover pages that showed pop-stars, decidedly said:a singer! A singer? thought Virgilio,scared. Singer, singer. He could not say singer, no. And “singer manager” sounded too boring to say. So, when the teacher asked gently: “Virgilio?”, he answered “Recorder”. “Recorder? Do you mean a reporter, a journalist?”. Virgilio was slightly disturbed by the request for further explanation, but still he said: “No. Recorder. Tape recorder.”
From then on, Virgilio worked hardto become a recorder. He repeated everything. Like true recorders, when he was asked “rewind and play again” he repeated what had just been said by Bert, by the teacher, by his little sister, even the school bell signalling the beginning of the break (which cost him a whole morning in the Headmistress’ office), even starting again from the middle of a word, with precisely the same intonation. At the beginning Charlotte laughed, a lot. But then, when Virgilio repeated the noise of the long kiss he gave her, no, she never forgave him. Virgilio tried to explain that by that point it was instinctual, that it was stronger than him, that it was his vocation. Charlotte didn’t want to hear his excuses, and never spoke to him again. Without Charlotte’s words and even worse without a singer, Virgilio was lost, and he often stopped in the middle of a sentence with abig bzzzzzzzztzzz like an unravelling cassette.

I saw Virgilio today. He was there, blackand sulky on my left, forced to recordmy babbling about the adventure of theovercoming and the attainment of theinfinite. And as the tape kept running, hewas thinking to himself: “I should havesaid astronomer”.

And here is the postcard:

(c) the maker and PostSecret

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